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Corporal Punishment in Children

Hope Manchester
South University

Corporal Punishment in Children

Corporal punishment is a hot topic that has attracted a lot of controversies. Fueled by media stories how this type of punishment endangers the life of a child makes it receive opposition from many quarters. For this reason, a debate ensues on whether it should be legalized. In 1977, the United States Supreme court ruled that corporal punishment was legal in schools as long as it was only spanking and paddling. However, the local legislature was given powers to overrule the judgment. Corporal punishment happens in different ways, whereby some of them are spanking, pinching, slapping, twisting, and hitting with an object. Those who use it think that it is a way of instilling discipline, yet they are not aware that it has far-reaching consequences. Therefore, this paper will look into the reasons why corporal punishment should be abolished.

Social Behavior

Given the many negative effects that corporal punishment has brought to children, many organizations involved in protecting children’s welfare have held a firm stance in dealing with the issue. Teaching children acceptable behavior is a vital part of their growth. However, some parents opt to use corporal punishment to achieve these goals. Parents and teachers harbor no ill intentions of harming the children when executing this form of punishment. The issue is that it brings more harm than good.For instance, it accelerates the bad behavior of children instead of correcting them. While corporate punishment may cause immediate compliance, researchers have revealed that a change in behavior will be short-lived (Sege, 2018). Numerous works of research have shown that children who are spanked have a higher likelihood of hitting other people. Corporal punishment models rebellion and aggression, which only show children that the only way to solve problems is through violence. It also instigates other behaviors such as bullying and anything that may make them wield power over others. A meta-analysis conducted by Gershoff (2018) reviewed 27 studies in childhood and four in adulthood. The results of the analysis affirmed that there physical infliction of pain to children propelled aggressive behavior. His study also included delinquency, and it was revealed that there was a strong link between corporal punishment and antisocial behaviors. Such behaviors may cease to show immediately, but my later be manifested after a while.

Cognitive effects

Social interactions play a pivotal role in a child’s cognitive development. Early social interaction with parents, peers, caregivers, and teachers influences the development of relationships as well as collaborative learning in children. The use of verbal methods to instill morals is much likely to yield positive results such as cognitive development as compared to using physical punishment. I9 states in the USA uphold corporal punishment. However, a study done on these states revealed that they performed dismally when it came to academic performance.States that did not uphold punishment showed a positive performance (Gray, 2019). Children who have been subjected to harsh punishments suffer from depression, fear, and anger management. Such students cow from engaging in school activities, thus performing poorly in academics. On top of that, they develop problems with concentrating, dislike for authority, school avoidance, and school dropout. Corporal punishment places parents and teachers at a disadvantaged position whereby they have to choose the educational wellness of the child and the children’s physical wellbeing. Additionally, schools that use corporal punishment affect every student. This is because it creates a threatening atmosphere, which affects the students’ ability to perform well. Children who witness or experience physical harm end up disrupting their classmates learning.

Parental- Child relationship

One major concern that arises from the use of corporal punishment is the effect it has on the quality of relationships on parents and their children. A warm, positive interaction with children proves it can enhance attachment. Attachment plays a vital role in the development and social outcome of a child. It is a vital aspect that gives children the assurance that they are safe. Numerous studies have affirmed that physical punishment is linked to poor parent-child relationships. A study conducted by (Laible, Davis & Karahuta et al., 2019) looked into several factors that affected attachment security. Factors such as maternal depression and stress were analyzed, and from the results, two-thirds of the children were insecurely attached. Parents are more likely to spank their children when depressed, and as a result, they have adverse attachment consequences on the children.

Mental Health

Corporal punishment, apart from causing physical harm, usually affects mental health. Some of the mental problems raised are depression, suicidal ideas, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Most of the time, such problems are left unattended, whereby they usually have long term effects. For instance, the effects may appear later in the parenting of the next generation. Mental health appears as a result of the suppression of anger by children since they are amazed that the same adults who are supposed to protect and care for them can inflict bodily harm.

Gershoff (2018) conducted a study whereby she analyzed 12 counts of mental health and punishment in childhood and eight studies of the same in adulthood. There was consistency in the findings in that mental problem in both adulthood and childhood were a complete result of physical punishment. Additionally, there have also been incidents of low self-esteem among children subjected to such atrocious types of punishment.

Moral Internalization

Social information processing theory reveals that the long term goals of instilling discipline in children are molding the children to accept the values and morals of the society to guide their own behavior. Moral regulation involves being sensible on any wrongdoing and the ability to prevent themselves from bad behaviors. Many parents prefer their children having good behaviors, but they are not aware that the induction of physical pain has opposite effects. This affirms that such uncouth discipline measures do not have any effect on building discipline; instead, they cause aggression. There are other measures that can be used to instill discipline, but physical harm has proved that it is ineffective.

Interactions with culture and ethnicity

There have been questions regarding the use of physical punishment and interaction with culture and ethnicity. For instance, different cultures have their own views on how they see corporal punishment. In African-American societies, this form of punishment is acceptable and is regarded as a sign of good parenting. Children in such cultures do not exhibit the harsh consequences that come with inflicting corporal punishment.

In conclusion, inducing physical pain to children has far-reaching consequences in their lives. Instead of instilling discipline, children exhibit aggressive behaviors and rebellion. Children know that the only way to solve problems is through violence. Numerous works of research have shown consistency in the negative effects of using corporal punishment. The cognitive and intellectual growth of children is hampered. Additionally, it is found to cause insecure attachment and the poor parent-child relationship. In every family, the goal is that children grow with proper discipline, but the use of physical punishment does the complete opposite of that. The health risks associated with this form of punishment are evident. The mental health of children is affected since some of them get depressed while others get ideas to commit suicide. Therefore, parents and teachers should explore other avenues of instilling discipline since physical punishment has proven to have negative consequences.


Gershoff, E. T. (2018). Corporal punishment associated with dating violence. Journal of pediatrics, 198, 322-325.

Gray, L. A. (2019). Corporal Punishment in Schools. In Educational Trauma (pp. 175-193). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Laible, D., Davis, A., Karahuta, E., & Van Norden, C. (2019). Does corporal punishment erode the quality of the mother-child interaction in early childhood?. Social Development.

Sege, R. D., Siegel, B. S., ABUSE, C. O. C., & COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH. (2018). Effective discipline to raise healthy children. Pediatrics, 142(6), e20183112

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