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Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)

Program

Psychology

Date of Award

5-2001

Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jon B. Ellis

Committee Members

James J. Fox III, Peggy J. Cantrell

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that children who have been physically punished exhibit several negative behaviors that continue into adulthood. These negative behaviors include aggressiveness, violence, and depression. Research has also demonstrated that children whose mothers work outside the home for pay were more likely to exhibit signs of depression than children whose mothers stayed at home. The subjects in this study were administered a brief demographic questionnaire that contained questions pertaining to the type of punishment they received both before the age of 7 and after they were 12 years old. There were also questions pertaining to their mothers working outside the home for pay and the type of employment (parttime vs. full-time). Participants were administered the expanded Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL) which assesses reasons people have for not committing suicide. Thus, the independent variables were punishment style (physically punished without explanation, physically punished with explanation, negative verbal punishment, positive verbal punishment, both, or neither) and maternal employment history (mother worked outside the home when you were a child or stayed at home). The dependent variables were the scores on the six sub-scales of the RFL, as well as the Total RFL score. A 2 (Gender) X 2 (Punishment Style) X 2 (Maternal Employment) design with unequal cell sizes was used to test for main effects adn interaction effects on all hypotheses.

It was predicted that subjects who were not physically punished would score higher on the RFL otal score than subjects who were physically punished. In addition, it was predicted that subjects who were not physically punished would report higher scores on the Survival & Coping belief sub-scale of the RFL than subjects who were physically punished. It was predicted that subjects whose nothers did not work outside the home for pay would score higher on the Total RFL score, and subjects whose mothers did not work outside the home for pay would report higher scores on the Survival & Coping belief sub-scale of the RFL. Also, it was predicted that women would score higher than men on the RFL Total score, and women who were not physically punished would score higher on the RFL Total score than men who were physically punished. Finally, it was predicted that women whose mothers did not work outside the home and who were not physically punished would score higher on the RFL Total score.

Participants included 203 individuals (87 male, 116 women). Sixty-three percent of subjects received care from both of their parents, and 83% of subjects' caregivers were married. Subjects were enrolled in undergraduate and graduate level psychology classes at a southeastern university.

Only one hypothesis was confirmed in this study. Women did score higher than men on the RFL Total score. Several, non-hypothesized results were found that may also be significant. An overwhelming 74% of women worked after their child was born, as reported by the subjects.

Half of the women went back to work right after their child was born. Also, most subjects were both physically and verbally punished before they were 7 years old. Eighty-four percent of subjects reported being punished after they were 12, with 20% of those being punished both physically and verbally.

In summary, the data suggest that many factors related to punishment style and use need to be examined. Subjects often reported negative verbal punishment that included being yelled at or called derogatory names. The psychological effects of punishment have long been a debated topic. Also, in society today, many women are opting to return to the work force. The possible effects of this trend need to be examined. This study attempted to examine only a small portion of the population. Future research should include a broader subject range and should attempt to uncover any possible factors in children's environments that may lead to the aggressive and violent tendencies we are seeing in the media.

Document Type

Thesis - Campus Only

Copyright

Copyright by the authors.

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