Corporal punishment (or physical punishment) in a family is an act deliberately performed by a parent, relative, or other guardian causing pain or discomfort to an underage for some kind of unwanted behavior.
Corporal punishment can be defined as slapping or spanking the child with a hand or striking with another subject such as a belt, cane, paddle, or any other domestic article and also, often includes pinching, shaking, forced ingestion of substances, or forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions.
In many cultures corporal punishment was considered a parent’s duty for a long time; it wasn’t merely acceptable but also encouraged. However, the situation has changed in 1950-1960 after “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” by Benjamin Spock was published in 1946. It urged to treat any child as a person, contradicting the prevailing point of view of that time.
In Africa, the Middle East, and several countries in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan included) as well as in such countries as Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the USA the corporal punishment of children is legal (the latter four, however, have definite restrictions to prevent the abuse of power in the family).
In Singapore and Hong Kong, corporal punishment isn’t illegal but is condemned by society. People in the mentioned regions have historically considered a certain amount of corporal punishment necessary, so this practice is generally maintained in families.
Viewpoints on Corporal Punishment
The method of corporal punishment is accepted as correct and the most effective by many parents.
A poll conducted by The Huffington Post and YouGov found that 81 percent of 1,000 adults polled believe spanking with a hand should be legal, and almost half think it’s an effective form of punishment.
However, in case we’re talking about spanking, we should tell spanking from abuse. In case spanking and hitting is the only discipline method applied to the child whether the child misbehaved or the expectations of the adults towards his or her abilities were improperly met, we are talking about habitual abuse. But in case, when spanking is the last resort – some psychologists suggest that it may be only used in two cases:
- Repeated misbehavior connected to the life-threatening activity
- Abusing the weaker live being by the child or physical cruelty towards the living being
The thing is that it takes time for the child to develop the natural self-defense mechanisms as well as the understanding of the “good” and “bad”. The “good” and the “bad” are the relative concepts not only from culture to culture but also from family to family. Thus, a physical impact may be the only empirical way to learn what pain is. “The fire burns, the needle pricks” works much better together with the sensation of the cold and the sharp. Same for the “what you’ve done – hurts” case. And in case the child abuses the weaker, an adult may behave as an advocate of the weaker (animal or another child) and “do the right thing”.
These are the only “spank cases”. In case it ever comes to spanking in your family, you should spank your child “right”. Always warn twice before applying the method and clearly explain the reason for the punishment. Make sure the baby understands why the type of the performed behavior is wrong and what may be the consequences. Calm down – do never give spanking in anger and aggression and… In public. Make it private and don’t be hard. Make spanking the less popular discipline method possible in your family.
Children who are spanked occasionally are not thought to be significantly impacted later on, but those who are spanked regularly are more likely to have behavior problems that may escalate into antisocial behavior. They may also be at greater risk for anxiety disorders or depression and ultimately may be more likely to engage in domestic violence and child abuse as adults.
For some parents, spanking is simply the easiest way to manifest anger and as it once comes to the point of limitless authority – some parents cross the dangerous edge of cruelty. This is where the parenting style transforms into the authoritarian parenting style instead of that authoritative – the best of all parenting styles, but the hardest to achieve. If you decide to raise a self-confident, balanced, happy person – regular spanking is surely not the method.
But in fact, too many adults all over the world regard corporal punishment as a necessary part of the educational process. In the USA and Great Britain 61-80% of the population supports the method; in Sweden, about 34% of parents consider the means admissible.
Social psychologists assume that such an opinion is a consequence of cognitive dissonance. In such countries as Great Britain and the USA, corporal punishment isn’t illegal, but children’s abuse is not approved by society and it’s shameful. At the same time, those who were punished when they were children often can’t admit that their own parents were cruel to them and don’t feel like victims of the abuse. “My father used to spank me, and I’m alright”
In brief, the regular polls on spanking show that there’s a higher chance of getting spanked in a Christian family of the republicans in the South.
Staying out of shaming people, who use spanking as a behavior correction method, the numerous research cases show, that corporal punishment has a short-term effect and all you may win – is a temporary well-behaving in the presence of the punisher, while it doesn’t guarantee the good behavior in the absence of the “sword of Damocles”.
Do you think corporal punishment is a valid form of discipline and education and what are your “cases for spanking”?
May a Teacher “Teach a Lesson”?
Nineteen US states currently allow corporal punishment in private and public schools (all 50 states allow “reasonable” corporal punishment in the home). Around 185,000 students were physically disciplined in American primary and secondary schools in 2009, according to the most recent Federal data. Around 80% of those so punished were boys, according to the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). Moreover, 36.67% of black students received corporal punishment, even though blacks represented only 17.13% of the overall student population.
Even though many parents use corporal punishment at home, most of them wouldn’t want their children to get spanked in the classroom. However, the USA practice legally allows teachers to punish the kids:
Courts have often granted schools the right to corporal punishment on the grounds of In Loco Parentis (i.e., schools possess the same rights over a child as do the child’s parents).
The changing moods of the public opinion towards corporal punishment in public schools remain the only influencing factor to exclude the practice of spanking from the teaching and discipline practice.
While a 2013 Harris Poll found that the vast majority of parents think that parental spanking is sometimes appropriate, a recent ABCNEWS poll found that only 26% of those polled said that grade-school teachers should be allowed to spank children at school.
Should corporal punishment be used in schools?
To Spank or not to Spank?
“The fear of punishment doesn’t form a healthy sense of guilt,” says Dr. Ross Campbell, psychologist.
However, punishment should not be excluded completely on the stage of the formation of social behavior. A team of researchers from the Universities of Ulm and Zurich, published a study in the Neuron journal, clarifying the neurobiological roots of antisocial behavior.
The heads of the research, psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer from the Ulm University and economist Ernst Fehr from the University of Zurich suggest that social norms are the central importance for the normal functioning of human society. At the same time, some people are willing to abide by those rules only in case there is a risk of a fine or another penalty.
Thus, the researchers do not suggest completely excluding the punishment as a discipline method.
Dr. V.I. Levi, a psychotherapist, highly recommends substituting corporal punishment for negative reinforcement, such as oral reprimand, disapproving facial expression, and other mild measures. A parent should remember a few rules before applying any kind of punishment:
Find out the reasons for the did before punishing for the consequences of the did. For example, the child tried to protect a younger kid or a girl and hit the offender. This should always be noted.
Only irregular behavior should become the reason for the punishment: a deliberate offense against family interests, refusal to obey reasonable requests, neglect of duties, causing damage to other people, and rudeness.
The punishment should be just and not too frequent, otherwise, the child will get used to it and it will be ineffective.
After the punishment, the child should be forgiven, and the wrongdoing – never mentioned again.
The child should never be punished if he or she is ill, has just woken up, is eating, is going to bed, is studying, or has recently suffered from physical or mental trauma.
- The child shouldn’t be punished if he or she can’t accomplish a task, but is trying hard.
- The parents shouldn’t punish children for being angry or upset. You must calm down first.
- The punishment shouldn’t harm a child’s health.
- One wrongdoing – one punishment.
- Other methods to deal with misbehavior instead of corporal punishment
Even though the opinions towards corporal punishment are negative – the statistics show, that the majority of families sometimes use the method as a last resort. Here we should mention that the propaganda against corporal punishment of children aims to limit those who lose control and turn punishment into habitual abuse. Considering that it’s hard to ban corporal punishment selectively in families with a higher risk of child abuse, the ban for corporal punishment in any family is a key point of the social services engaged in increasing child abuse awareness.
We want to express our sincere gratitude to the bloggers, who had the courage to participate in this controversial issue and contributed their thoughts.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.