The Reliability Paradox of the Parent–Child Conflict Tactics Corporal Punishment Subscale

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In the present investigation we consider and explain an apparent paradox in the measurement of corporal punishment with the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS-PC): How can it have poor internal consistency and still be reliable? The CTS-PC was administered to a community sample of 453 opposite sex couples who were parents of 3- to 7-year-old children. Internal consistency was marginal, yet item response theory analyses revealed that reliability rose sharply with increasing corporal punishment, exceeding .80 in the upper ranges of the construct. The results suggest that the CTS-PC Corporal Punishment subscale reliably discriminates among parents who report average to high corporal punishment (64% of mothers and 56% of fathers in the present sample), despite low overall internal consistency. These results have straightforward implications for the use and reporting of the scale.

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