A study examining data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project looked at the relationship between early parenting and temperament characteristics and later child antisocial and positive behaviors. Mother's reported on their own discipline practices and their children's temperament at 15 months of age, the children's self-regulation abilities at 25 months of age, and their aggression, deliquency, compliance, and prosocial behaviors in 5th grade. Path analysis was used to model the relationships between discipline severity and temperament at 15 months and child behaviors in 5th grade, with self-regulation at 25 months as a potential mediating factor. More severe types of discpline included verbal and physical punishment, wheres as less severe forms of discipline included time-out, loss of privileges, and prevention strategies.
For European American children, the study found that negative emotionality as infants predicted self-regulation at 25 months and that both predicted aggression in 5th grade. Self-regulation in these child also predicted later delinquency, compliance and prosocial behaviors. Interestingly, in this cultural group, discipline severity was not related to any of the later child characteristics or behaviors.
In African American children, the study found that both negative emotionality and discipline severity as infants predicted aggression in 5th grade. Discpline also predicted deliquency and degree of prosocial behaviors. Self-regulation in this cultural group was an independent characteristic of the child that predicted compliance and prosocial behaviors separately from discipline or negative emotionality.
The authors discuss the possible cultural factors that could contribute to these between-group differences.
One interesting result that was shown, but not discussed in the study, was that negative emotionality in the African American infants was correlated with discipline severity. This suggests that in these African American families, the quality of discipline may change in response to infant temperament (and vice versa), whereas choice of discipline in the European American families was not related to the child's temperament.
One potential hypothesis arising from these results is that children whose families use discipline to respond to their emotional state end up learning to use similar behaviors to respond their environment, whereas children whose families use a consistent level of discipline, regardless of emotional state, do not develop behaviors that reflect the discipline, but do develop regulation skills that reflect their underlying temperament. In either case, children's inherent level of self-regulation appears to be important for adhering to social expectations. Medical News Today