The relative extent of physical punishment and abuse by mothers and fathers

Gavin Nobes, Marjorie Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This article reviews the literature that compares the extent to which mothers and fathers administer physical punishment and perpetrate physical abuse. Studies that used similar methods usually show fair agreement, but some significant inconsistencies occur when different sources of information have been used. There is general agreement that mothers and fathers physically punish their children to similar extents. The picture regarding severe or abusive actions is less clear. Most parental self-report studies indicate that mothers are at least as likely as fathers to be responsible. However, according to most studies based on victims' reports, and on official or clinical records that take father absence into account, fathers are more often implicated. Possible reasons for these discrepancies include differences between definitions, biases in samples, and inaccurate reporting. Despite this lack of agreement, the evidence shows that fathers are responsible for a considerable proportion of violence to children.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalTrauma, Violence, & Abuse
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2000

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