Effective Discipline for Children

mother and daughterChildren don't come with training manuals. And disciplining children is one of the most important – and hardest – jobs parents have. It's not something we are taught, so most parents "learn on the job" or repeat what their parents did, which may not be effective.

Phoenix Children's Hospital endorses effective discipline for children which does not involve physical punishment, and is proud to make available a leading report on physical punishment of children in the U.S.


The Report on Physical Punishment in the United States

What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children

Download the full report. (PDF)

Download the executive summary:

English version  -or-  Spanish version  (PDF)

For information on obtaining written copies of the Report, the brochure "Principles and Practices of effective Discipline: Advice for Parents" or "These Hands Build Trust" poster, contact: Marcia Stanton, MSW, Coordinator, Child Abuse Prevention at Phoenix Children's Hospital, email:  or 602-546-3342.

Report on Physical Punishment image

The Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children, authored by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD, synthesizes one hundred years of social science research and many hundreds of published studies on physical punishment conducted by professionals in the fields of psychology, medicine, education, social work, and sociology, among other fields. 




The research supports several conclusions:


  • There is little research evidence that physical punishment improves children's behavior in the long term.
  • There is substantial research evidence that physical punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future. 
  • There is clear research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased mental health problems.
  • There is consistent evidence that children who are physically punished are at greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse.



Effective discipline - Advice for parents

Learn about the four main principles of positive and effective discipline in these documents, authored by Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD

Principles and Practices of Effective Discipline

 Full-color brochure (PDF)

 Text-only version (PDF)

Positive Parenting

Top 10 Tips for Parents (PDF)

Additional resources 

American Academy of Pediatrics - Discipline Methods

The Center for Effective Discipline - Educational information on the effects of physical punishment and alternatives

University of Missouri - Positive Discipline and Child Guidance


The Report on Physical Punishment in the United States has already been endorsed by many national organizations concerned with child well-being, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

Download the list of current endorsements.

How your organization can endorse the report

We invite other organizations to endorse the report and show their support.

Read the letter to potential endorsers. (PDF)

Download and return the endorsement form. (PDF)

About the author - Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD, is an Associate Professor of  Human Development and Family Services at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas. She received a doctoral degree in child development and worked for five years as an Associate Research Scientist at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University. In her current research, Dr. Gershoff focuses on the impacts of parenting and violence exposure on child and youth development over time and within the contexts families, schools, neighborhoods, and social policies. She also studies the longterm impacts of school-based violence prevention on youth mental health and academic achievement.

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