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Study: Harsh Discipline Good For Children if Offset by Loving Parenting

Being a strict parent is good for children – as long as it is done with a little love and affection.

A study of teenagers found the painful effects of harsh discipline – such as verbal threats or spanking – are offset by the child’s feeling of being loved.

The researchers said being punished is unlikely to result in anti-social behavior further down the line, as long as the child believes their punishment is coming from “a good place.”

 The use of harsh discipline on youngsters is controversial, carrying a greater risk of manifesting aggression, delinquency and hyperactivity.However, the new findings published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice suggest a scolding or slap can be moderated by the recipient’s feelings of being loved by their mother.The study of a group of Mexican-American adolescents found having a loving mother – or the “perception of maternal warmth” – protected against encouraging any anti-social behavior.

And even where the child’s perception of maternal warmth was lower, it still resulted in a positive relationship between harsh disciplinary practices and later “externalizing” problems.

Dr. Miguelina German, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, explained  the  “attachment theory” holds that warm, responsive parenting is the critical factor in producing happy, secure children.

The underlying belief that their parents love them protects against feelings of rejection, even when being harshly disciplined.

Dr. German said the use of harsh parental discipline does not automatically result in anti-social behavior in the child.

She added: “The relationship between the two is conditional and subject to other factors.

“Where harsh disciplinary practices are a cultural norm, there are always other influences at play that can lessen their potential harm on the young child.”

Previous research has found children are more likely to grow into well-adjusted adults if their parents are firm disciplinarians.

Traditional authoritative parenting, combining high expectations of behavior with warmth and sensitivity, leads to more competent children.

It is particularly important for girls, who can suffer from a lack of confidence and may turn to drugs if care is merely adequate, according to the 2009 study by researchers from London’s Institute of Education.

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