Objectives: Little is known about associations between different forms of discipline and children's literacy, social skills, and behavior in low- and middle-income countries. This study examined maternal use of physical discipline, harsh physical discipline, psychological aggression, and nonphysical discipline and their relative associations with preschool-aged children's social and literacy skills and behavioral difficulty in 25 diverse African countries. We also explored whether belief in physical discipline and sociodemographic factors moderate the associations between different forms of discipline and childhood outcomes. Methods: The participants were 32,817 biological mothers and their preschool-aged children from the UNICEF Multiple indicator Cluster Surveys. Information regarding belief in and use of physical and nonphysical forms of discipline and children's social and literacy skills and behavioral difficulty were obtained via questionnaires obtained from mothers in each household. Results: Psychological aggression was negatively, and nonphysical discipline positively associated with children's literacy skills. Harsh physical discipline, physical discipline, and psychological aggression were positively, and nonphysical discipline negatively associated with behavioral difficulty in children. Psychological aggression, physical discipline, and nonphysical discipline were positively associated with and harsh physical discipline negatively associated with children's social skills. Maternal education, preschool enrollment, and household wealth variously moderated the associations between different modes of discipline and children's literacy and social skills and behavioral difficulty. Conclusions: Findings underline the negative consequences of harsh discipline on children's social and literacy skills and behavioral difficulty in African cultural communities.
- African countries
- Childhood outcomes
- Physical and nonphysical discipline
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health