Objective. To examine the use and predictors of different discipline practices by parents of very young children using data from the 2000 National Survey of Early Childhood Health (NSECH).
Methods. NSECH is a nationally representative telephone survey of 2068 parents of young children between the ages of 4 and 35 months conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics. The survey includes questions about parents’ use of 5 discipline practices: yelling, spanking, time out, toy removal, and explanations. χ2 analyses and logistic multivariate regression were used to examine associations between discipline practices and child, parent, and demographic factors.
Results. Among young children aged 19 to 35 months, frequent parental use of discipline strategies ranged from 26% (spanking) to 65% (taking away toy or treat), 67% (yelling), 70% (using time out), and 90% (providing explanations). In multivariate analyses, child age predicts reports of more frequent spanking and yelling, and child developmental risk is associated with increased reports of yelling. Parent frustration predicts frequent use of every discipline practice, including a greater inclination to use aversive practices. Lower parental emotional well-being is associated with reports of frequent yelling and spanking. Black ethnicity and maternal age predict more frequent spanking, and Spanish-speaking parents reported less frequent use of time out and taking away a toy.
Conclusion. Child age and developmental risk and parents’ ethnicity, emotions, and mental health are closely associated with discipline practices in the first 3 years of life. These factors are important for pediatricians to recognize in providing anticipatory guidance about discipline.