Corporal Punishment Is Uniquely Associated With a Greater Neural Response to Errors and Blunted Neural Response to Rewards in Adolescence

Published:September 21, 2022DOI:



      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.


      To address this issue, we examined how corporal punishment affected neural measures of error and reward processing in 149 adolescent boys and girls of ages 11 to 14 years (mean age [SD] = 11.02 [1.16]). Corporal punishment experienced over the lifetime was assessed using the Stress and Adversity Inventory. In addition, participants completed a flankers task and a reward task to measure the error-related negativity and reward positivity, respectively, as well as measures of anxiety and depressive symptoms.


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


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


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