Previous research has indicated that physical punishment, such as spanking, can have negative consequences on child emotional development and growth.
However, for the most part, research has examined the short-term links between physical discipline and development.
Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that physical discipline experienced during infancy can negatively impact temperament and behaviour among children and even into their teenage years.
"Long-term studies on the links among parenting, temperament and children's social behaviours have been limited, especially among racially diverse, low-income populations," said Gustavo Carlo, Millsap Professor of Diversity at the Universty of Missouri.
"Our findings show that differences exist in the roles of parenting, temperament and self-regulation and how they impact a child's development."
The team gathered data from 1,840 mothers and children. Information was collected when children were approximately 15 months old, 25 months old and in the fifth class. Researchers used surveys of mothers and children, home visits and interviews with fifth grade teachers to complete the study.
The study found that if children experienced severe punishment at 15 months, they were more likely to show increased aggressive and delinquent behaviours in fifth class
These children were also less likely to show positive behaviours, such as sharing and helping others.
"Our findings show how parents treat their children at a young age, particularly African-American children significantly impacts their behaviour.
It is very important that parents refrain from physical punishment as it can have long-lasting impacts. If we want to nurture positive behaviours, all parents should teach a child how to regulate their behaviours early."
The research will help parents, educators and other resource providers to understand well-being and resiliency in low-income children.
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