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

Anik Zubizarreta, Esther Calvete, Benjamin L. Hankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-244
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2019


  • Externalizing problems
  • Internalizing problems
  • Punitive parenting style
  • Temperament
  • Warmth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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