Parental harsh disciplining, like corporal punishment, has consistently been associated with adverse mental health outcomes in children. It remains a challenge to accurately assess the consequences of harsh discipline, as researchers and clinicians generally rely on parent report of young children's problem behaviors. If parents rate their parenting styles and their child's behavior this may bias results. The use of child self-report on problem behaviors is not common but may provide extra information about the relation of harsh parental discipline and problem behavior. We examined the independent contribution of young children's self-report above parental report of emotional and behavioral problems in a study of maternal and paternal harsh discipline in a birth cohort. Maternal and paternal harsh discipline predicted both parent reported behavioral and parent reported emotional problems, but only child reported behavioral problems. Associations were not explained by pre-existing behavioral problems at age 3. Importantly, the association with child reported outcomes was independent from parent reported problem behavior. These results suggest that young children's self-reports of behavioral problems provide unique information on the effects of harsh parental discipline. Inclusion of child self-reports can therefore help estimate the effects of harsh parental discipline more accurately.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Mackenbach, J.D, Ringoot, A.P, van der Ende, J, Verhulst, F.C, Jaddoe, V.W.V, Hofman, A, … Tiemeier, H.W. (2014). Exploring the relation of harsh parental discipline with child emotional and behavioral problems by using multiple informants. The generation R study. PLoS ONE, 9(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104793