Parental factors, such as nurturance, communication, stability of marriage, and effective disciplinary skills, play a pivotal role in child discipline. Parents act as key role models for acceptable and expected behavior.[i] Adult models significantly influence aggressive behavior in children.[ii] Parental consistency and predictability are necessary in promoting acceptable behavior in children. Changing consequences, delayed imposition of consequences, and irregular application of consequences are practices that often characterize parents of “out-of-control children.”[iii] Proactive versus reactive correction leads to very different outcomes. A parent who takes the time to instruct and forewarn a child is more likely to achieve a desired behavior than one who impulsively corrects a child’s uninstructed behavior.
The parent-child relationship is foundational to the disciplinary process. Children respond best if discipline occurs in the context of warm, affectionate, accepting relationship.12 Parental involvement in and monitoring of a child’s activities positively affect child compliance.
Bauman and Friedman summarize the results of negative parenting: “Ineffective parenting practices predict conduct disorder in childhood, which is strongly associated with academic failure, peer rejection, and later involvement in chronic deviant behavior, including aggression. Family variables are consistent covariates for early forms of deviant behavior. Families of antisocial children are characterized by harsh, inconsistent discipline, little positive parental involvement with the child, and poor monitoring and supervision. Inept parenting practices, which include noncontingent positive and negative reinforcers, mean coercive child behaviors are unwittingly reinforced.”[iv]
Finally, the father-mother married unit is fundamental to the health of a society and to the optimal development of the child.[v] Marital harmony models respect for one another and provides a stable environment for emotional growth. Children in families with high levels of marital conflict are more likely to have behavioral problems than those in families with low levels of conflict.[vi] Instability of the marriage relationship can lead a child to reject the parents’ values and defy their directives.
[i] Behrman RE, Kliegman RM. Textbook of Pediatrics, Fourteenth Edition. 2002; pp 45-50. WB Saunders Company.
[ii] Bandura A. Aggression: A Social Learning Analysis. 1973. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall
[iii] Patterson, G.R. Punishment for Aggression. Chapter 6 in Coercive Family Process. 1982. Vol. 3, p118. Castalia Publishing Company
[iv] Bauman LJ & Friedman SB. Corporal punishment. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 1998.45;2;403-414.
[v] Schneider, B, Atteberry, A, Owens, A. Family matters: Family structure and child outcomes. 2005; 1-42. Birmingham, AL. Alabama Policy Institute.
[vi] Cummings, E., & Davies, P. Effects of marital conflict on children: recent advance and emerging themes in process-oriented research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2002; 43: 31-63.