Severe Parental Punishment and Aggression: The Link between Corporal Punishment and Delinquency
Ralph S. Welsh
This essay is a summary of the work my assistant and I have been doing with juvenile delinquents for more than nine years, culminating in the formulation of a theory1 of juvenile delinquency. Although the "Belt Theory" of juvenile delinquency has been viewed by some of my colleagues to be too simplistic, we are becoming increasingly certain that the theory has far-reaching implications for the ultimate reduction of juvenile delinquency in particular, and human aggression in general.
Early in my clinical career I became alarmed to discover an unusual number of juvenile delinquents who were reporting severe parental punishment (SPP)2 when giving their development histories. When I began carefully to question the delinquents or their parents, and tabulate the information regarding parental punishment practices, I was astounded to find that the recidivist male delinquent who had never been exposed to a belt, board, extension cord, or fist was virtually nonexistent. Although puzzled and skeptical viewing my own data, I was, nevertheless, intrigued. I began to explore the ramifications of the relationship between SPP and delinquency. With the help of several associates and consultants, to date we have surveyed more than four hundred subjects, including juvenile delinquents, their parents, high school service club youths, PTA members, adult education students, and laundromat patrons. Armed with information obtained from the above studies, and utilizing supportive data from the literature, I constructed a behavioral model which I frequently refer to as my " Belt "Theory of Juvenile Delinquency" ( Welsh, 1976a).