You are here

The Relation of Harsh and Permissive Discipline with Child Disruptive Behaviors: Does Child Gender Make a Difference in an At-Risk Sample?

Permissive parenting intensified boys’ behavioral problems, and harsh discipline was related to child behavioral problems regardless of gender, but parent education lessened child behavioral problems, particularly for girls.

[popup title="Sample, Hypothesis, Variables Measured, Study Design" format= "Default hover" text='


  • N: 160
  • Subject Ages: Parents of children ages 3 to 6 years
  • Location: United States, Vermont and Arkansas
  • SES: Not available
  • Eligibility: Not available
  • Additional:
    • 6.5% parents had less than high school education, 17.4% had a high school diploma, 76.1% had some college education
    • Recruited through Head Start


  1. Parents’ use of harsh discipline will be positively correlated with both boys’ and girls’ disruptive behavior.
  2. Permissive discipline will be related to boys’ disruptive behavior.
  3. Higher levels of both harsh and permissive discipline will be positively correlated with higher levels of disruptive behavior.

Variables Measured, Instruments Used

  • Demographic questionnaire
  • Dysfunctional discipline practices when faced with problem situations - two subscales from the Parenting Scale
  • Child disruptive behaviors - the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory




  1. Higher levels of permissive discipline were related to higher levels of harsh punishment.
  2. Harsh discipline was significantly correlated with intensity of disruptive behavior in boys and girls, so that harsh discipline was related to more intense disruptive behavior.
  3. Permissive parenting was significantly correlated with intensity of disruptive behavior in boys but not girls.
  4. For boys, higher levels of permissive parenting were related to more intensive disruptive behaviors.
  5. For girls, higher levels of parental education were related to less intense disruptive behaviors.
  6. For boys, child age was significantly related to intensity of disruptive behavior.


  • Data are cross-sectional, limiting conclusions about causality.
  • Focus was on two ineffective discipline strategies. Many important strategies parents use were not examined.
  • All of the data was based on parent reports.