Harsh parenting during early childhood and child development

Matias Berthelon, Dante Contreras, Diana Kruger, María Isidora Palma

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32 Scopus citations


We study the relationship between harsh parenting strategies, including psychological and physical aggressions that do not constitute abuse, on early childhood cognitive and socio-emotional development. We estimate a value-added model that controls for a rich set of child, mother, and family characteristics, from a nationally representative sample of Chilean children aged 52–83 months. We find harsh parenting is significantly associated with lower verbal skills (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) of a magnitude of 0.06 standard deviations, and with increased behavioral problems (Child Behavior Check List), by 0.11 standard deviations, including internalization, externalization, and sleep problems. We also find that the more systematic (persistent) harsh parenting is, the stronger the association; the association is similar for boys and girls; reaches its peak at about 5 years of age; and it is stronger for children with less educated mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100831
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Child development
  • Chile
  • Cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes
  • Corporal punishment
  • Harsh parenting
  • Spanking
  • Violence toward children


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