Parenting behaviors that shape child compliance: A multilevel meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 5;13(10):e0204929. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204929. eCollection 2018.


Background: What are the parenting behaviors that shape child compliance? Most research on parent-child interactions relies on correlational research or evaluations of "package deal" interventions that manipulate many aspects of parenting at the same time. Neither approach allows for identifying the specific parenting behaviors that shape child compliance. To overcome this, we systematically reviewed and meta-analyzed available evidence on the effects of experimentally manipulated, discrete parenting behaviors-a niche in parent-child interaction research that contributes unique information on the specific parenting behaviors that shape child behavior.

Methods: We identified studies by systematically searching databases and through contacting experts. Nineteen studies (75 effect sizes) on four discrete parenting behaviors were included: praise, verbal reprimands, time-out, and ignore. In multilevel models, we tested for each parenting behavior whether it increased child compliance, including both observed and parent-reported measures of child compliance.

Results: Providing "time-out" for noncompliance robustly increased both observed and parent-reported child compliance (ds = 0.84-1.72; 95% CI 0.30 to 2.54). The same holds for briefly ignoring the child after non-compliance (ds = 0.36-1.77; 95% CI 0.04 to 2.90). When observed and parent-reported outcomes were combined, but not when they were examined separately, verbal reprimands also increased child compliance (d = 0.72; 95% CI 0.26 to 1.19). Praise did not increase child compliance (ds = -0.27-1.19; 95% CI -2.04 to 1.59).

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that of the discrete parenting behaviors that are experimentally studied in multiple trials, especially time-out and ignore, and to some extent verbal reprimands, shape child compliance.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Rearing / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parenting / psychology*