Understanding the mediating role of corporal punishment in the association between maternal stress, efficacy, co-parenting and children’s adjustment difficulties among Arab mothers.


This study, guided by the Family Systems Theory, examines the direct effect of maternal use of corporal punishment on children’s adjustment difficulties. Also, it explores whether corporal punishment serves as a mediating factor in the relationship between several maternal characteristics, marital relationships, and children’s adjustment difficulties. A total of 2,447 Arab mothers completed anonymous, structured, self-report questionnaires. The use of corporal punishment was generally strongly supported by the Arab mothers in our sample. A greater likelihood of using corporal punishment was found among mothers of boys rather than girls, among mothers with lower perceived self-efficacy to discipline children, and among mothers with a lower perception of their husbands’ participation in child-related labor. In addition, the higher a mother’s reports on disagreement with her husband about discipline methods and the stronger her level of maternal stress, the more likely she was to use corporal punishment. Corporal punishment also mediated the association between the above mentioned factors and child adjustment difficulties. Furthermore, a husband’s emotional support and family socioeconomic status were directly associated to children’s adjustment difficulties. The results of the current study emphasize the need to observe children’s development within the context of their family systems and to consider the mutual influences of different subsystems such as marital relationships and mother-child interactions. Prevention and intervention programs should raise parents’ awareness concerning the harmful effects of corporal punishment and take into account the impact of dynamic transactions of parental conflicts and disagreements regarding discipline methods on child outcomes.