Cultural Norms for Adult Corporal Punishment of Children and Societal Rates of Endorsement and Use of Violence

Parent Sci Pract. 2008 Jul 1;8(3):257-270. doi: 10.1080/15295190802204843.


OBJECTIVE: To test the hypothesis that societal rates of corporal punishment of children predict societal levels of violence, using "culture" as the unit of analysis. DESIGN: Data were retrieved from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample of anthropological records, which includes 186 cultural groups, to represent the world's 200 provinces based on diversity of language, economy, political organization, descent, and historical time. Independent coders rated the frequency and harshness of corporal punishment of children, inculcation of aggression in children, warfare, interpersonal violence among adults, and demographic, socioeconomic, and parenting covariates. RESULTS: More frequent use of corporal punishment was related to higher rates of inculcation of aggression in children, warfare, and interpersonal violence. These relations held for inculcation of aggression in children and warfare after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and parenting confounds. CONCLUSION: More frequent use of corporal punishment is related to higher prevalence of violence and endorsement of violence at a societal level. The findings are consistent with theories that adult violence becomes more prevalent in contexts in which corporal punishment is frequent, that the use of corporal punishment increases the probability that children will engage in violent behaviors during adulthood, and that violence in one social domain tends to influence behavior in other domains. If corporal punishment leads to higher levels of societal violence, then reducing parents' use of corporal punishment should lead to reductions in societal violence manifested in other ways.