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Why Do Parents Hit Their Children? From Cultural to Unconscious Determinants
The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child  (IF0.333),  Pub Date : 2020-01-01, DOI: 10.1080/00797308.2020.1690858
George W. Holden

ABSTRACT Parental use of corporal punishment (CP) as a way of disciplining children is a widespread global problem. A number of child and family problems are linked to the behavior. Despite being commonly used to discipline children in many countries, its use is far from universal. Why do some parents use it while others do not? This paper examines the principal determinants, or predictors, that influence parental use of this form of punishment. I begin with a brief historical overview of the efforts to study the determinants of parental behavior. I then provide a brief summary of the four major categories of variables that predict CP use: socio-cultural influences; the family and social environment; child variables; and parental variables. Two types of parental variables – conscious thoughts as well as unconscious motives–will be examined in some detail. It is noteworthy that unconscious forces have received little research attention and typically go ignored. This raises an important methodological point: how CP is assessed affects the determinants studied. The article ends with a discussion of some future directions for the study of the predictors of CP and other disciplinary responses.