Acceptability of positive and punitive discipline methods: Comparisons among abusive, potentially abusive, and nonabusive parents

Mary Lou Kelley, Nancy C Grace, Sephen N. Elliott


The present study compared abusive, potentially abusive, and control group parents' perceptions of commonly used discipline procedures. The clinical samples were obtained from Parents Anonymous (PA) and consisted of both court-referred (abusive) and self-referred (potentially abusive) members. The subjects were presented with case vignettes that described a child with either mild or severe behavior problems and asked to rate four methods of disciplining the child. The discipline methods involved positive reinforcement, timeout, timeout with spanking, and spanking. The findings indicated that (1) overall, the parents generally evaluated positive reinforcement as significantly more acceptable than timeout, timeout with spanking, and spanking; (2) self-referred PA members viewed timeout, timeout with spanking, and spanking as relatively more acceptable than did their demographically similar comparison group; and (3) court-referred PA parents' ratings did not significantly differ from their comparison group, since both groups rated the reinforcement method as significantly more acceptable than the other three discipline methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-226
Number of pages8
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes

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