Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 1-37

First online:

Comparing Child Outcomes of Physical Punishment and Alternative Disciplinary Tactics: A Meta-Analysis

  • Robert E. LarzelereAffiliated withPsychology Department, Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical CenterPsychology Department, MMI, 985450 Nebraska Medical Center Email author 
  • , Brett R. KuhnAffiliated withPsychology Department, Munroe-Meyer Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center

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This meta-analysis investigates differences between the effect sizes of physical punishment and alternative disciplinary tactics for child outcomes in 26 qualifying studies. Analyzing differences in effect sizes reduces systematic biases and emphasizes direct comparisons between the disciplinary tactics that parents have to select among. The results indicated that effect sizes significantly favored conditional spanking over 10 of 13 alternative disciplinary tactics for reducing child noncompliance or antisocial behavior. Customary physical punishment yielded effect sizes equal to alternative tactics, except for one large study favoring physical punishment. Only overly severe or predominant use of physical punishment compared unfavorably with alternative disciplinary tactics. The discussion highlights the need for better discriminations between effective and counterproductive use of disciplinary punishment in general.


children parenting discipline punishment spanking