Effects of Corporal Punishment on Children

            Corporal punishment is used sparely today as far as the average person can see.  With many laws out their protecting unfair and hurtful treatment of others, it’s easily to forget that most children overwhelmingly receive this questionable form of correction. When you think corporal punishment your mind probably jumps to the extreme foams of it, such as, serve whipping, hangings of the old days, and ancient tortures. Corporal punishment isn’t always that elaborate but no matter the level; it is still hurtful producing long term effects that are not always good.

Modern corporal punishment is mainly reserved for children. Most adults do not experience this form of correction as it is seen as harassment and abuse when applied to an adult. If an adult getting spanked is considered harassment, why is it acceptable for a child to be spanked? To understand this double standard we must look at the society we live in, in this case the United States of America.

Our country was built on very liberal and defiant terms. Our whole society originated from groups of rebels and people wishing to break free from English society. Our history is a bloody one, with most of our independence due to wars, fighting and spilling blood. America in general, saw forcefulness and violence as a means to accomplish our goals. The society accepted this method because it did accomplish our goals. At the time of America’s formation we didn’t have much of a choice of how we did things. Today in the modern world our views on conducting and accomplishing goals has changed greatly but still we hold on to some methods of the old days.

Today many countries have outlawed to use of corporal punishment. These countries have signed the United Nations Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Children. This act views corporal punishment as an act of abuse against children. America itself has seen a push to outlaw corporal punishment. In the recent years, America as taken on a higher moral level of thinking when it comes to how we wish to conduct our business as well as how we treat each other. The issue of corporal punishment and children a heated debate among America’s new way of thinking.

So what is considered corporal punishment of children? Gershoff and Bitensky provide a very good definition of corporal punishment when applied to children, “The use of physical force, no matter how light, with the intention of causing the child to experience bodily pain so as to correct or punish the child’s behavior” This would be acts such as spanking, slapping a hand, face, or other body part.

Corporal punishment is usually divided into three groups of views; anti-corporal, pro-corporal and conditional corporal punishment. Anti-corporal are those against using corporal punishment. Pro-corporal are those for using corporal punishment. Finally, conditional corporal punishment our people who believe corporal punishment should only be used on children as a last measure. The vast majority of America today uses conditional corporal punishment when it comes to correcting their children.

There have been many studies conducted of corporal punishment wielding some starling outcomes. All testing found some level of the following negative affects, emotional problems, develop mental problems, behavior problems as adolescents and behavior problems as adults. Research by Gagne, Tourigny, Joly, and Pouliot-Lapointe found in their 2007 project, that adults receiving corporal punishment in children hood were very likely to use it on their own kids. They saw found that 30% of parents believed that spanking was not harmful to there children were 60% believed it harm children mildly sometimes. Only 10% believed it would lead to serve problems. 70% believed that spanking caused to long term effects of children at all. These statistics raise a starling flag when you think of the nature of this form of correction.

Despite the movement to end this form of punishment, we can’t seem to let go of the violence our nation was built on. Many parents ignore the reports that provide negative facts on corporal punishment. They do this for many of the following reasons; I was spanked as a child and I turned out find, my parents did it to me so I can do it to my children, there’s no other way to punish them and get my point across. These are socialized foams of reasoning for justifying the action. The mass media and government of our society still supports this idea of a parent according dominance over their children. As long as large social structures like the media and government support the pro side of corporal punishment, it will take time to change the masses opinions on it.  Stacks, Oshio, Gerard, and Roe found in there 2009 study that once corporal punishment is used, it becomes a cycle which each new generation learns from the last.

Stacks, Oshio, Gerard, and Roe also found in there 2009 study that mother who started using corporal punishment on children as young as 12 months, could increase and cause aggression in child as young as 24 months old. Indeed aggression is one of the top sited reasons for banding corporal punishment. Their research also found that these children trended to grow up with more behavioral problems and lower parental positive interaction. Parents were also more likely to use more server punishments as the children grew older. This caused the family to grow up in more turmoil. Grogan-Kaylor confirmed these results in there 2005 test done years before Stacks, Oshio, Gerard, and Roe. They found that when children were spanked, that there was a 5% increase with every session for the child to reproduce bad behavior or the same time or a great bad behavior.  

In recent years moral issues have raised in opposition. There are no laws that dictate when corporal punishment is taken too far and crosses the line of abuse. Though many people believe corporal punishment in itself is abuse and going by the definition of abuse it fits perfectly, there no strict guideline to follow. With research showing the negative affects, one wonders why we put our child through it. It’s true not all children come out scarred for life, but the fact we even willing to risk it puts question into our own nature and society structure.

We are taught as parents that we rule the house and that children are below us. They must compile with everything we say. With this way of thinking it’s easy for us to forget that children our humans to, not belongings. Our social forces have told us since the dawn of time that we are to rule children. When you look are other animals, it’s not hard to see that our attitude is a nature driven one. Like an animal, are instincts tell use pain is the best way to learn from a mistake. We think if we hit the kid they will learn. What we fail to realize is that we are not privative animals anymore. We have our own set of morals and standers. We know harming others is wrong no matter what the reason yet when it comes to our children we make an acceptation. Will feel we have to give hard love or our society will deliver it to the child in a much harsher way.

You can see our misguided attempt with corporal punishment in our area alone from the following data gathered by the 2008 Virginia Coalition on the Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect. Corporal punishment leads to increasing the following rates of abuse.

Virginia Coalition on the Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

Number of children reported as victims of maltreatment: 46,511

Number of children involved in founded complaints: 6,487

Number of children in Virginia that died as a result of child abuse/neglect: 29

Age of abused and neglected children:

Under the age of 12 years: 76.0%

Under the age of 7 years: 55.0%

Under the age of 2 years: 45.0%

Type of abuse/neglect:

Physical Abuse: 27.0%

Physical Neglect: 61.1%

Sexual Abuse: 13.9%

Mental Abuse/Neglect: 1.1% 

Medical Neglect: 2.5%

What we as people must realize is there our other ways to punish children without physical or emotional harm. We must move away from own past and look at the other options. We already know that corporal punishment is found to be the least affect way of teaching children long term values and lessons. Over 3 million children a year are reported in the U.S. as maltreatment and sadly this underestimates the real number; self report survey’s show that over 35% of all adults suffer from some form of abuse in their childhood. We can father break this down into types and find patterns in them.

The following chart contains data from the “The Extent and Consequences of Child Maltreatment,” study done in 1998, 2004, and 2006.     

Child Maltreatments 

Physical Abuse

90% + e.g. spanking = less severe

16% overall (more for boys)

e.g. beatings with injuries = most severe 

Sexual Abuse Under age 14 – best estimates

25% girls; 6% boys

17% girls; 4% boys

Emotional Abuse


e.g. yelling at, criticizing = less severe


e.g., repeated pattern of yelling, belittling, or degrading child = most severe 

Child Neglect

No estimates available from national surveys

e.g. lack of supervision, no help with homework = less severe

14% girls; 21%boys

e.g., child abandoned, or not fed, malnourished = most severe 

35% of all adults experience one of the following above but we can lower that number. It may seem easier to just go straight for spanking or yelling but stop and think. Your adding to these numbers very time you spank your child. You are increasing your chance of crossing the line to abuse. Your teaching your child a cycle of punishment that is long over due to be replaced. So next time, stop and make sure you have truly tried everything before you raise your hand. There are other, better and more effective ways to teach a lesson. Its okay if you don’t know how, just look at the top of this site and click on the “Resources to Get Help” there you can review alternatives to corporal punishment. There are methods and guidelines to help you learn the new ways of punishment. Finally, there you’ll find all the help you need to start tearing down the old system of punishment. Every change starts with one step followed by another. Go ahead and take that first step, see what the other side has to offer, you might find it much better that the methods that still linger today. You have nothing to lose and much to gain in the name of children’s rights.