Facts About Corporal Punishment

It's important to educate yourself about the facts on corporal punishment.
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Corporal punishment remains a hot topic that is widely debated by experts and parents. News stories about the horrors of child abuse often raise questions about whether corporal punishment should remain legal and what steps could be taken to reduce incidents of physical abuse to children.

Corporal punishment encompasses all types of physical punishment, including spanking, slapping, pinching, pulling, and hitting with an object. It may also include forcing a child to consume unpleasant substances, such as soap, hot sauce, or hot pepper.

In the United States, corporal punishment is legal on a federal level, but state laws vary on what types of physical punishments are allowed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' Position on Corporal Punishment

The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a firm stance against any type of corporal punishment. They released at 2015 statement that reads:

"The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. Spanking is never recommended; infants may be physically harmed by a parent who strikes the child. If a spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They also might apologize to their child for their loss of control. This usually helps the youngster to understand and accept the spanking, and it models for the child how to remediate a wrong."

The AAP recommends that parents, schools, and caregivers refrain from using any type of physical punishment with children. They report corporal punishment is ineffective over the long-term and leads to negative outcomes.

Corporal Punishment Makes Behavior Problems Worse

Corporal punishment may lead to immediate compliance. A child who gets spanked, slapped, or pinched, may change his behavior in the short-term. In the long-term, however, studies consistently show that corporal punishment is ineffective. In fact, it can worsen behavior problems over time.

Spanking children increases aggressive behavior. A multitude of research studies have found kids who are spanked are more likely to hit other people. Corporal punishment models aggressive behavior which teaches children to solve problems with violence.

Spanking is not any more effective than time-out. Research shows that spanking quickly loses effectiveness over time. When children are spanked, they don’t learn how to make better choices and eventually, spanking stops being a deterrent. 

Corporal punishment also damages the relationship between children and their caregivers. Trust, stability, and security, are keys to helping a child develop the skills he needs to manage his own behavior. Corporal punishment erodes the relationship and makes behavior management more difficult.

Spanking Has Been Linked to Lower IQ

A 2009 study published in Journal of Aggression Maltreatment & Trauma found that spanking lowers a child’s IQ. Researchers suggest that the fear and stress associated with being hit takes a toll on a child’s brain development.

The study found that the more a child was spanked, the slower the child’s mental development. This was especially true when children continue to be spanked at older ages.

Physical Punishment is Associated with Increased Mental Illness

Children who are subjected to corporal punishment, such as spanking, pushing, grabbing, and paddling, are more likely to develop mental disorders.

A 2012 study published in Pediatrics reported that harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders. 

Even when the physical punishment wasn't considered child abuse, the researchers found that corporal punishment placed children at a higher risk of developing almost every type of mental illness.

Most Americans Believe in Spanking

Despite much public opposition to spanking, a 2013 survey conducted by the Harris Poll discovered that 81% of Americans privately support spanking children.

The poll found that older generations are more accepting of spanking with 88 percent of mature parents, 85 percent of baby boomers, 82 percent of Gen X parents, and 72 percent of Millennial parents approving of corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment can be a difficult cycle to break. Most children who were spanked grow up to become parents who use physical punishments.

19 States Allow Teachers to Paddle Students

The AAP has taken a strong stance against corporal punishments in schools, stating that schools should not use any type of physical punishment.

Despite their statements, paddling is still allowed in many public schools in the United States.

Interestingly, hitting children with a wood paddle is actually considered child abuse in some states.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights estimates that 223,190 students were paddled during the 2005-2006 school year. A 2009 study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch found that black students and disabled students were paddled most often.

39 Countries have Banned Corporal Punishment

Many countries have banned any type of corporal punishment, including spanking. Sweden became the first country to ban corporal punishment in 1979. Since then, other countries such as Germany and Brazil have also made spanking children illegal.

In 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child released a statement declaring that corporal punishment is a form of violence that should be banned in all contexts. Other human rights organizations have issued similar warnings about spanking.

Corporal Punishment Alternatives

Discipline shouldn't be about controlling kids. Instead, it should be about teaching them to control themselves. Use strategies that will help your child learn from her mistakes while also developing better decision-making skills that will help her make better choices in the future.

If you use corporal punishment with your child, you may want to consider the potential long-term consequences physical punishment could have on your child's well-being.

Consider alternative discipline strategies that could be more effective. Take away certain privileges, such as electronics, for 24 hours. That will hurt more than a spanking will.

Place a younger child in time-out. If your child refuses to go to time-out, take away a privilege.

Use restitution if your child's behavior hurts someone else. Assign an extra chore or have him perform a duty that will help make amends.

Use logical consequences that teach life lessons. If your child breaks something, make him do chores to earn money to fix it.

Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior too. Establish a reward system or a token economy system to help your child address specific behavior problems.

If you have concerns about your child's behavior or he doesn't seem to be responding to your discipline strategies, seek professional help. Talk to his pediatrician about what steps you can take to address his behavior in a healthy way.

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