The role of child, maternal and household factors in the reported use of physical punishment practices by Portuguese mothers

Telma Rancheiro, Maryse Guedes, Manuela Veríssimo


Physical punishment is the use of physical force to cause to body pain or discomfort, to correct children’s misbehaviour (Gershoff, 2008) and negatively impacts children’s development (Gershoff, 2002). To overcome limitations in the current state-of-art knowledge in Portugal, this study aimed to describe the maternal reports about the use of different physical punishment practices in the last year and to analyse the predictive role of child, maternal and household characteristics in the use of different physical punishment practices in the last year. A total of 289 Portuguese mothers of children aged 5 to 14 years completed the Escala de Crenças sobre a Punição Física (Machado et al., 2003) and the Inventário de Práticas Educativas Parentais (Machado et al., 2015). According to results, spanking child at the buttocks with the hand and slapping child’s hand, arm, or leg were the most reported punishment practices. Maternal tolerance toward physical punishment was the strongest and most consistent predictor of spanking child at the buttocks with the hand and slapping child’s hand, arm, or leg during the last year. Future cross-cultural studies may continue to explore the most used physical punishment practices and the characteristics that predict their use.


Physical punishment, Parenting beliefs, Child characteristics, Maternal characteristics, Family characteristics.

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