We attempted to identify factors that can be applied in primary and secondary prevention programs and expand the understanding of why those who were not abused may engage in abusive behavior. The purpose of this research was to explore how young adults' attributions of whether they deserved their childhood discipline, as well as their abuse history, relate to physical child abuse potential and their discipline plans for their future children. A sample of 140 non-parent college students were asked to report on their discipline history, perceptions of that discipline, child abuse potential, and expected discipline practices. An age range of 18-20 was targeted for multiple reasons, including the suitability of these young adults for primary and secondary prevention programs. Analyses revealed that both physical child abuse potential and future discipline practices were independently predicted by respondents' belief that they deserved their discipline in conjunction with the harshness of their childhood discipline. These results suggest that the attributions of self-blame held by young adults about their discipline experiences are significant for increasing physical abuse potential regardless of whether the individual reports a history of abuse. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.