Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1263–1274 | Cite as

Intergenerational Transmission of Corporal Punishment in China: the Moderating Role of Marital Satisfaction and Gender

  • Meifang Wang
  • Xiaopei Xing
  • Jinxia Zhao


The goal of this study was to examine the intergenerational patterns in the transmission of parental corporal punishment in China and the moderating effects of marital satisfaction (of the second generation: G2) and gender (of three generations: G1, G2 and G3) on these patterns. Six hundred thirty-five father-mother dyads with preschool-aged children were recruited to participate in this survey. The results provided evidence of cross-generational continuity in parental corporal punishment in Chinese society and also supported the hypothesis that same-gender continuity in parental corporal punishment is stronger than cross-gender continuity. Moreover, it was found that marital satisfaction moderated the transmission of parental corporal punishment, and there were some interesting gender differences in the moderator effect. Specifically, marital satisfaction buffered the transmission of corporal punishment from grandmothers to mothers of daughters and to fathers of sons but strengthened the transmission from grandfathers to fathers of sons. The findings broaden our understanding of the factors and processes that account for both discontinuity and continuity in parental corporal punishment, particularly within the Chinese cultural context.


Corporal punishment Intergenerational transmission Marital satisfaction Gender Chinese 



This research was supported by Key Subject Funds of Shandong Province, PR China (2011–2015). We are grateful to all the children, parents, and teachers who participated or contributed to this project.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.


  1. Bailey, J. A., Hill, K. G., Oesterle, S., & Hawkins, J. D. (2009). Parenting practices and problem behavior across three generations: monitoring, harsh discipline, and drug use in the intergenerational transmission of externalizing behavior. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1214–1226.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: a social learning approach. Englewood Cliff: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  3. Belsky, J. (1993). Etiology of child maltreatment: a developmental-ecological analysis. Psychology Bulletin, 114, 413–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belsky, J., Jaffee, S. R., Sligo, J., Woodward, L., & Silva, P. A. (2005). Intergenerational transmission of warm-sensitive-stimulating parenting: a prospective study of mothers and fathers of 3-year-olds. Child Development, 76, 384–396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berndt, T. J., Cheung, P. C., Lau, S., Hau, K., & Lew, W. J. F. (1993). Perceptions of parenting in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: sex differences and societal differences. Developmental Psychology, 29, 156–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bouchard, G. (2012). Intergenerational transmission and transition to fatherhood: a mediated-moderation model of paternal engagement. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 747–755.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  8. Caliso, J. A., & Milner, J. S. (1992). Childhood history of abuse and child abuse screening. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 647–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cappell, C., & Heiner, R. B. (1990). The intergenerational transmission of family aggression. Journal of Family Violence, 5, 135–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chang, L., Schwartz, D., Dodge, K., & McBride-Chang, C. (2003). Harsh parenting in relation to child emotion regulation and aggression. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 598–606.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Chuang, S. S., & Su, Y. J. (2009). Do we see eye to eye? Chinese mothers’ and fathers’ parenting beliefs and values for toddlers in Canada and China. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 331–341.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Conger, R. D., Belsky, J., & Capaldi, D. M. (2009). The intergenerational transmission of parenting: closing comments for special section. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1276–1283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dasen, P. R., & Mishra, R. C. (2000). Cross-cultural views on human development in the third millennium. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 24, 428–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deater-Deckard, K., Lansford, J. E., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2003). The development of attitude about physical punishment: an 8-year longitudinal study. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 351–360.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Egeland, B., & Sroufe, A. (1981). Attachment and early maltreatment. Child Development, 52, 44–52.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Egeland, B., Jacobvitz, D., & Srouf, L. A. (1988). Breaking the cycle of abuse. Child Development, 59, 1080–1088.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fine, S. E., Trentacosta, C. J., Izard, C. E., Mostow, A. J., & Campbell, J. L. (2004). Anger perception, caregivers’ use of physical discipline, and aggression in children at risk. Social Development, 13, 213–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gershoff, E. A. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: a meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539–579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ho, D. Y. F. (1986). Chinese patterns of socialization: a critical review. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), The psychology of the Chinese people (pp. 1–37). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Ho, D. Y. F., & Kang, T. K. (1984). Intergenerational comparison of child-rearing attitudes and practices in Hong Kong. Developmental Psychology, 6, 1004–1016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hsu, F. L. K. (1967). Under the ancestors’ shadows: kinship, personality, and social mobility in village China (Rev. and exp. ed.). New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  22. Kerr, D. C. R., Capaldi, D. M., Pears, K. C., & Owen, L. D. (2009). A prospective three generational study of fathers’ constructive parenting: influences from family of origin, adolescent adjustment, and offspring temperament. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1257–1275.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Kwong, M. J., Bartholomew, K., Henderson, A. J. Z., & Trinke, S. J. (2003). The intergenerational transmission of relationship violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 288–301.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lansford, J. E., Chang, L., Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Oburu, P., Palmérus, K., & Quinn, N. (2005). Physical discipline and children’s adjustment: cultural normativeness as a moderator. Child Development, 76, 1234–1246.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Locke, H. J., & Wallace, K. M. (1968). Predicting adjustment in marriage. New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lu, L., & Lin, Y. Y. (1998). Family roles and happiness in adulthood. Personality and Individual Difference, 25, 195–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lunkenheimer, E. S., Kittler, J. E., Olson, S. L., & Kleinberg, F. (2006). The intergenerational transmission of physical punishment: differing mechanisms in mothers’ and fathers’ endorsement? Journal of Family Violence, 21, 509–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Morris, S. Z., & Gibson, C. L. (2012). Corporal punishment's influence on children's aggressive and delinquent behavior. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 38, 818–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Muller, R. T., Hunter, J. E., & Stollak, G. (1995). The intergenerational transmission of corporal punishment: a comparison of social learning and temperament models. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19, 1323–1335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Neppl, T. K., Conger, R. D., Scaramella, L. V., & Ontai, L. L. (2009). Intergenerational continuity in parenting behavior: mediating pathways and child effects. Developmental Psychology, 45, 1241–1256.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Preacher, K. J., Curran, P.J., & Bauer, D. J. (2003). Simple intercepts, simple slopes, and regions of significance in MLR 2-way interactions. Retrieved from:
  32. Putallaz, M., Costanzo, P. R., Grimes, C. L., & Sherman, D. M. (1998). Intergenerational continuities and their influences on children’s social development. Review of Social Development, 7, 389–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sawilowsky, S. S. (2007). Real Data Analysis. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Shi, B., & Shen, J. (2007). The relationships among family SES, intelligence, intrinsic motivation and creativity. Psychological Development and Education, 23, 30–34.Google Scholar
  36. Simons, R., Whitebeck, L., Conger, R., & Chyi-In, W. (1991). Intergenerational transmission of harsh parenting. Developmental Psychology, 27, 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Simons, R. L., Wu, C. I., Lin, K. H., Gordon, L., & Conger, R. D. (2000). A cross-cultural examination of the link between corporal punishment and adolescent antisocial behavior. Criminology, 38, 47–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smetana, J. G. (1989). Toddlers’ social interaction in the context of moral and conventional transgression in the home. Development Psychology, 25, 499–508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Straus, M. A. (2001). Beating the devil out of them: corporal punishment in American families and its effects on children. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  40. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Finkelhor, D., Moore, D. W., & Runyan, D. (1998). Identification of child maltreatment with the parent–child conflict tactics scales: development and psychometric data for a national sample of American parents. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22, 249–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tang, C. (2006). Corporal punishment and physical maltreatment against children: a community study on Chinese parents in Hong Kong. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30, 893–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wang, M. F., & Xing, X. P. (2014). Intergenerational transmission of parental corporal punishment in China: the moderating role of spouse’s corporal punishment. Journal of Family Violence, 29, 119–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang, Q., & Zhou, Q. (2010). China’s divorce and remarriage rates: trends and regional disparties. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 51, 257–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wilhelm, K., Niven, H., Parker, G., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2005). The stability of the parental bonding instrument over a 20-year period. Psychological Medicine, 35, 387–393.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Xing, X. P., & Wang, M. F. (2013). Sex differences in the reciprocal relationships between mild and severe corporal punishment and children's internalizing problem behavior in a Chinese sample. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 34, 9–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Xing, X. P., Wang, M. F., Zhang, Q., He, X. R., & Zhang, W. X. (2011). Gender differences in the reciprocal relationships between parental physical aggression and children’s externalizing problem behavior in China. Journal of Family Psychology, 25, 699–708.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Xu, Y., Farver, J. A. M., Zhang, Z., Zeng, Q., Yu, L., & Cai, B. (2005). Mainland Chinese parenting styles and parent–child interaction. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29, 524–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyShandong Normal UniversityJinanPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations