Effects of perceived maternal warmth, control, and corporal punishment on the psychological adjustment of Puerto Rican youths from low socioeconomic, single-mother family households in New York City

Date of Completion

January 2006


Anthropology, Cultural|Psychology, Developmental|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Hispanic American Studies




Grounded on Rohner's (1960, 1986) PARTheory, and replicating his research methods (1991), this study aimed to answer two questions: (1) Does physical punishment itself lead to reported negative effects on Puerto Rican youths, or does it have these effects insofar as it is perceived as a form of maternal rejection and control? (2) Does severe physical punishment in context of low SES households of single mothers and their youths, have a different meaning this punishment seems to have for other American youths who do not share this ideology? ^ Data analyses show that yes, physical punishment had a moderate though statistically significant effect over how youths perceived their psychological adjustment was. The frequency of punishment and perceived maternal acceptance accounted for 21% of the variability of youths' psychological adjustment, and yet, youths (N = 94) on the whole reported a quite positive psychological adjustment. They did not perceive much maternal indifference/rejection . Although perceptions of maternal acceptance correlated with youths' psychological adjustment, perceptions of maternal control did not. Sixty-eight percent of the sample perceived their mothers to be moderately controlling. Analyses also indicate that youths' feelings of maternal acceptance were consistent with those found among many American youths. This suggests that a disciplinary strategy of moderate physical punishment with moderate control contributed to these youths' psychological adjustment. ^ Hence, their mothers were not so distant from other American mothers in their ability to provide warmth and affection to their youths despite societal constraints.^ Secondly, youths endorsed corporal punishment in child rearing. But this was unrelated to their own perceptions of psychological adjustment. The more loving mothers were perceived, the more strongly their endorsement to their mothers' rights to use corporal punishment. Apparently, corporal punishment in these families is coupled with a strategy of overwhelming warmth and affection, demonstrations which clouded any perceptions of maternal rejection or resentment of youths. ^ This study is, hence, in agreement with those who contend that the love and acceptance children feel for their caretakers is much more strongly related to their psychological well-being than physical punishment per se. ^