Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 233–244 | Cite as

Punitive Parenting Style and Psychological Problems in Childhood: The Moderating Role of Warmth and Temperament

  • Anik Zubizarreta
  • Esther CalveteEmail author
  • Benjamin L. Hankin
Original Paper


Punitive parenting style has been identified as a risk factor for the development of internalizing and externalizing problems in childhood. However, its effect might depend on child temperament and the combined use of punishment with other parenting forms such as warmth. This longitudinal study assessed whether three temperament traits (negative affectivity, positive affectivity, and effortful control), as well as parental warmth moderated the association between punishment and child internalizing and externalizing problems. Five-hundred and seventy-two children (mean age at wave 1: 8.47 years; 45% girls) and their parents participated in the two waves (8 month apart) of the study. Children completed measures of depression, somatization, rule breaking, aggressive behavior, and parenting styles. Parents completed measures assessing their children’s temperament traits (negative affectivity, positive affectivity, and effortful control) and problems. Punishment predicted an increase in all problems over time. Parental warmth predicted a decrease in depression and somatization. Positive affectivity predicted an increase of aggressive behavior. Negative affectivity moderated the predictive association between punishment and externalizing symptoms, with the detrimental effect of punishment being higher among children high in negative affectivity. In addition, the damaging role of punishment on depression was higher when both warmth and effortful control were high. In boys, punishment predicted higher depression when both warmth and negative affectivity were higher. Results suggest that punishment is uniquely associated with an increase in externalizing and internalizing problems, even though some interactions between temperament, warmth and punishment can exacerbate or diminish direct associations between punishment and children’s psychological symptoms.


Punitive parenting style Warmth Temperament Externalizing problems Internalizing problems. 



This research was supported by a grant from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Spanish Government, Ref. PSI2015-68426-R) and from the Basque Country (Ref. IT982-16 and Ref. PI_2016_1_0023)

Author Contribution

A.Z.: designed and executed the study, collected data, assisted with the data analyses and wrote part of the paper. E.C.: designed the study, analyzed the data, wrote the results and part of the paper and edited drafts by A.Z. and the final manuscript. B.H.: collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee of the University of Deusto (Spain) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This paper does not include any studies with animals.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study and their parents.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Personality, Psychological Assessment and TreatmentUniversity of DeustoBilbaoSpain
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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