Original Article

Factors that Affect Parental Disciplinary Practices of Children Aged 12 to 19 Months

Authors: Rebecca R. S. Socolar, MD, MPH, Eric Savage, MA, Lynette Keyes-Elstein, DRPH, MPH, Hughes Evans, MD, PHD


Background: Physicians are encouraged to provide counseling regarding parental discipline. Quality counseling requires knowledge of disciplinary practices and factors that affect these practices.

Methods: One hundred and eighty two parents of 12- to 19-month-old children from general pediatric clinics in North Carolina and Alabama were interviewed regarding discipline using the Discipline Survey. Measures of contextual factors were analyzed to see which predicted disciplinary practices.

Results: Ninety-two percent of the participants were mothers; 6% were fathers; participation rate: 78%. Monitoring was the most common type of discipline used and time out was the least common. Parent, child, and family characteristics were all importantly associated with a broad array of disciplinary practices and modes of administration. However, the situation in which discipline occurred was found to be significant for most disciplinary practices even after controlling for other factors. Our study found that the specific misbehavior was most likely, and the presence of the other parent was least likely, to affect the type of discipline which was utilized.

Conclusions: When counseling families about discipline, practitioners should incorporate the fact that misbehavior happens in various contexts.

Key Points

* Monitoring and verbal communication were the most common types of discipline in this age group. Ignoring the child and time outs were the least common types of discipline.

* The context in which the discipline occurred, including parent, child, family characteristics and the immediate situation, affected the type of discipline used and the way it was administered.

* The situation in which the discipline occurred was still an important determinant of discipline after taking other factors into account.

* When counseling families about discipline it is useful to be aware of common practices and to acknowledge that misbehavior occurs in various situations.

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