Singapore, 6 October 2022 – Singapore parents frequently use a combination of physical[i] and psychological[ii] disciplinary methods in their parenting, as revealed by a first-of-its-kind study by Singapore Children’s Society and Yale-NUS College. This ‘Parental Disciplinary Practices Study’ was conducted to understand the prevalence of physical discipline in Singapore, and the experiences of parents, caregivers and young adults.

“Parental disciplinary practices, in particular physical discipline, have always been a contentious issue in Singapore’s society. Yet, no clear view has ever been established on parents’ and caregivers’ acceptance and use of this method. Nor has the point of view been sought from those at the receiving end. Hence, it is important for us to have a clearer sight of these practices. This local study, backed by data, contextualises such practices in our culture,” explains Ms. Ang Boon Min, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Children’s Society. “With a deeper understanding of disciplinary practices, Children’s Society can examine ways to support parents and caregivers towards positive parenting. This would improve parent-child relationships and the social-emotional development of children, both of which form the cornerstones of children’s social-emotional well-being as they transit from childhood to adulthood.”

Methodology and details of the study

The Parental Disciplinary Practices Study is a two-part mixed-methods[iii] study; the first part sought to understand parents’ and caregivers’ perspectives and experiences, while the second focused on young adults. Children’s Society and Yale-NUS College asked the parents and caregivers in their study sample about their use of various discipline methods in the last year. Children’s Society also sought to understand what the young adults remember and think, having been on the receiving end of various disciplinary methods before the age of 18.

General findings

It was found that parents in Singapore frequently used a combination of physical and psychological methods in their parenting. Almost all parents used non-physical[iv] forms of discipline, including reasoning and rewarding their child for good behaviour.

99.6% of parents in the study sample used non-physical discipline methods and 84.7% used psychological discipline methods. Notably, 44.8% of respondents reported using at least one type of physical discipline[v] the past year, of which 29.9% used physical discipline frequently.

Detachment between attitudes and conduct

Strikingly, there is a disconnect between attitudes and actual behaviours as more than half of parents who had considered physical discipline to be neither effective nor acceptable still used it frequently. Of the 29.9% of parents who used physical discipline frequently (i.e. several times a year), more than half (53.7%) considered physical discipline to be never or most of the time not effective; and nearly 60% consider it never or most of the time not acceptable.

Physical discipline did not necessarily yield the objectives the parents wanted to achieve (e.g. learning lessons, acquiring values, developing a child’s character). While it may have elicited immediate compliance and attention when it was meted out, young adults who had experienced physical discipline in their childhood years reported not learning any moral lessons.

Concerning results from the study

The prevalence of physical discipline on younger children is particularly concerning as they are more vulnerable to harm and less able to defend and speak up for themselves. The study found that parents with pre-schoolers were most likely to use physical discipline (40.6%), followed by those with infants (30.8%) and those with primary schoolers (29%).

Young adults in the study also reported lasting negative outcomes such as strains on the parent-child relationship, challenges in managing emotions, and poorer social-emotional well-being and self-worth. Thus, the potential negative impact of physical discipline continues to be observed even in adulthood.

Singapore Children’s Society stand on discipline

While parental discipline styles in Singapore have deep roots in our culture and tradition, Singapore Children’s Society discourages the use of physical discipline. Children’s Society highlights that physical discipline is an ineffective discipline method, and is also concerned about the impact of psychological discipline, which is often used in combination with physical discipline. The negative impact of both types of discipline on a child are long-lasting and linked to poorer adjustment in adulthood.

This study has shown that there are diverse approaches, often a mix of methods, when it comes to the discipline of children by parents and caregivers. Children’s Society believes that Singapore parents are the best judges to determine the discipline styles in their household and for each individual child. However, it hopes that this study would shine the spotlight on the impact of less ideal methods, and rally agencies and stakeholders to come together and pave a way forward to help parents and caregivers build desirable skills in positive parenting. Children’s Society is committed to work closely with children and youth, as well as support parents and caregivers in nurturing connections with their children, raising them to become well-adjusted and emotionally resilient adults.

More information about the study can be found in the study brief. For more information on Singapore Children’s Society, please visit or contact us at 6273 2010 to find out more.

About Singapore Children’s Society (

Singapore Children’s Society protects and nurtures children and youth of all races and religions. In 2021, the Society reached out to 19,973 children, youth and families in need. Established in 1952, its services have evolved to meet the changing needs of children. Today, Children’s Society operates more than 10 service centres islandwide, offering services in the four categories of: Vulnerable Children and Youth, Children and Youth Services, Family Services, and Research and Advocacy.

The charity’s Patron-in-Chief is President Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore.

[i] Physical discipline, or corporal punishment, involves disciplinary actions where the child experiences pain but not injury, with the purpose of controlling or correcting a child’s behaviour.  

[ii] Psychological discipline involves practices such as love withdrawal, where children are made to believe parental love is dependent on good behaviour, or shaming children for their misbehaviour

[iii] The mixed methods referred to a combination of quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis

[iv] Non-physical discipline: includes practices such as reasoning or offering children something else to do as an alternative to the undesired behaviour.

[v] Examples of Physical discipline

  • Spanked the child on the bottom with bare hand 
  • Hit elsewhere “not buttocks” with an object (such as a stick, broom, cane, or belt) 
  • Hit the child on the buttocks with an object (such as a stick, broom, cane, or belt) 

Examples of Psychological discipline

  • Shouted, yelled, or screamed at the child 
  • Refused to speak to the child 
  • Insulted the child by calling him/her dumb, lazy or other names like that 

Examples of Non-physical discipline

  • Told the child to start or stop doing something 
  • Explained to the child why something s/he did was wrong 
  • Gave him/her a reward for behaving well