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Corporal Punishment is Uniquely Associated with a Greater Neural Response to Errors and Blunted Neural Response to Rewards in Adolescence

Published:September 21, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2022.09.004

      Abstract

      Background

      Although corporal punishment is a common form of punishment with known negative impacts on health and behavior, how such punishment affects neurocognitive systems is relatively unknown.

      Method

      To address this issue, we examined how corporal punishment affects neural measures of error and reward processing in 149 adolescent boys and girls from 11- to 14-year-olds (Mage = 11.02, SDage = 1.16). Corporal punishment experienced over the lifetime was assessed using the Stress and Adversity Inventory (STRAIN). Additionally, participants completed a flankers task and a reward task to measure the error-related negativity (ERN) and the reward positivity (RewP), respectively, as well as measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms.

      Results

      As hypothesized, participants who experienced lifetime corporal punishment reported more anxiety and depressive symptoms. Experiencing corporal punishment also was related to a larger ERN and blunted RewP. Importantly, corporal punishment was independently related to a larger ERN and a more blunted RewP beyond the impact of harsh parenting and lifetime stressors.

      Conclusion

      Corporal punishment appears to potentiate neural response to errors and decrease neural response to rewards, which could increase risk for anxiety and depressive symptoms.

      Keywords

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