Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Punishment Enhances Reasoning's Effectiveness as a Disciplinary Response to Toddlers

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Punishment Enhances Reasoning's Effectiveness as a Disciplinary Response to Toddlers

Article excerpt

ROBERT E. Boys Town PAUL R. SATHER Biola University*

WILLIAM N. SCHNEIDER St. Mary's Hospital**

DAVID B. LARSON Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences***

PATRICIA L. PIKE Biola University*

Three different kinds of analyses investigated the effect of disciplinary reasoning on subsequent risbehavior with 2- and 3-year-olds. The effectiveness of reasoning by itself depended on how often reasoning had been combined with punishment on other occasions. In the longitudinal analyses the largest increase in disruptive behaviors by age 4 occurred when parents used reasoning frequently without ever backing it up with punishment. The largest decrease in disruptive behavior occurred when parents used reasoning frequently but backed it up with punishment when necessary).

Key Words: aggression, discipline, preschoolers, punishment, reasoning.

Discipline has long been of pragmatic interest to parents and of theoretical interest to psychologists. Hoffman (1983) viewed disciplinary incidents as central to moral development because they constitute salient, early conflicts between self and societal interests. Patterson (1982) saw disciplinary responses as a key for helping parents improve their management of aggressive children. Recent emphases on preventing antisocial behavior have focused on early interventions with parents (e.g., Wolfe, 1991).

A variety of perspectives share the goal of helping parents discipline their children effectively with minimal aversiveness. However, some cognitive and some behavioral perspectives differ in their recommended means for achieving that goal. Cognitive developmentalists generally imply that the optimal strategy is to minimize power assertion and maximize disciplinary reasoning (Hoffman, 1977; Kochanska, 1991; Lepper, 1983). In contrast, behavioral parent training has emphasized the contingent use of time-out as a disciplinary response with minimal emphasis on reasoning, except to clarify the behavioral contingencies (Forehand & McMahon, 1981; Patterson, 1982).

Support for these two perspectives generally comes from different kinds of research participants. The cognitive developmental recommendation of reasoning is based primarily on research with middle-class mothers (Grusec & Goodnow, 1994). Behavioral recommendations for contingent punishment are based on the effectiveness of those disciplinary responses in training parents of clinically referred children. Cognitive developmentalists have not explained why contingent punishment is crucial for clinically referred cases, and behaviorists have not accounted for the positive associations between parental use of reasoning and appropriate child behavior.

Some have combined the two approaches into a cognitive-behavioral perspective. The best illustration of this is Baumrind's (1973) research on parenting styles. Her optimal authoritative style combines some features of both perspectives. Authoritative parents use frequent reasoning, nurturance, low restrictiveness, and firm control.

Consistent with authoritative parenting, the combination of punishment and reasoning generally has proven to be a more effective disciplinary response than has reasoning by itself (Chapman & Zahn-Waxler, 1982; Cheyne & Walters, 1969; Crockenberg & Litman, 1990; Davies, McMahon, Flessati, & Tiedemann, 1984; Dix & Grusec, 1983; Hoffman, 1977; LaVoie, 1974; Parke, 1969). In some of those studies, effectiveness was measured by compliance rather than by moral internalization (Chapman & Zahn-Waxler, 1982; Crockenberg & Litman, 1990; Davies et al., 1984; Goodenough, 1931; Lytton & Zwirner, 1975), but other replications have used moral internalization as outcomes (Cheyne & Walters, 1969; Dix & Grusec, 1983; Hoffman, 1977; Israel & Brown, 1979; LaVoie, 1974; Parke, 1969). A previous study in our research program replicated the effectiveness of a combination of punishment and reasoning with toddlers (Larzelere, Schneider, Larson, & Pike, 1996). …

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