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Disciplinary Parenting Practice and Child Mental Health: Evidence From the UK Millennium Cohort Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-116.e2
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date25 Oct 2018
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Jun 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2018
DatePublished (current) - Jan 2019


Objective: To investigate whether a longitudinal association exists between differential disciplinary parenting practices at age 3 and later child psychopathology at age 11. Methods: Data were obtained from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a UK wide cohort. Discipline style was assessed using a validated maternal reported questionnaire at age 3, for which later outcome data were available. We distinguished between ‘active’ (including smacking, shouting and telling off) and ‘withdrawal’ approaches (including ignoring, removal of privileges and sending to bedroom). Child emotional and behavioral problems were assessed at age 3 and 11 using the maternally completed Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The independence of associations between early discipline and later child mental health were investigated using mutually adjusted regression analyses and potential reverse causality was considered by looking at changes between SDQ subscale scores from age 3 to 11. Results: Differential associations with change in child psychopathology according to discipline type was observed. Both active and withdrawal discipline were associated with a reduction in conduct problems from ages 3 to 11 (active beta cf -0.28, 95% CI -0.34 to -0.21, p<0.001 and withdrawal beta cf -0.19 95% CI -0.24 to -014, p<0.001). However, active approaches were also associated with an increase in emotional problems (beta cf 0.07 95% CI 0.00 to 0.14, p=0.03); not observed for withdrawal approaches. Conclusions: Different approaches to discipline appear to have differential associations with later child mental health. Further research accounting for a greater number of parent and child characteristics is needed to assess whether such associations are causal.

    Research areas

  • behavior, discipline, parenting



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