Corporal punishment is a punishment of a child by a parent or other relative, usually done by spanking, slapping, or whipping with a belt, paddle, walking stick, or home shoes. In many cultures, it was believed that parents had a duty to punish children, and corporal punishment was considered acceptable. For instance, in the United States, corporal punishment used to be an essential part of how parents disciplined their children. However, this view changed in the Western World in the second half of the twentieth. Nevertheless, In Africa, the Middle East, and many countries in East Asia, including China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, corporal punishment for children remains legal.
The use of corporal punishment has always been a hot-button issue, with many of its proponents citing the age-old adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” to justify its use. However, recent research shows that corporal punishment is detrimental to children, with adverse outcomes on both their physical and mental health. In this speech, I am going to talk about the harmful effects corporal punishment has on children. Extensive research has been conducted on whether it is an effective way to discipline a child; however, overwhelming studies conclude that corporal punishment contributes to several negative consequences in children such as propensity for violence towards their peers and their loved ones in the future. In addition, corporal punishment provokes a level of distrust between child and caregiver, and the research demonstrates that subjecting a child to this does not entirely lead to improved behavior.
Firstly, corporal punishment does not always help parents achieve their educational goals. A meta-analysis conducted in 2002 by Elizabeth Gershoff, the subject of which was carried out for 60 years of research, concluded that the only positive effect of physical punishment is immediate obedience, but in the long run, the level of obedience decreases. This means that the use of corporal punishment to improve the long-term behavior of children will not produce any results. Furthermore, even for the short-term effects, it is worth using other forms of punishment that do not bring such physical and moral harm.
Secondly, there is a gap in the relationship between children who are subject to corporal punishment, and their parents. Research has also shown that the use of corporal punishment hinders the parent-child relationship. Children subjected to physical punishments leads to distrust and fear of their parental figure. In 2002, Elizabeth T. Gershoff discovered that because of the stress that occurs in children due to physical punishment, they no longer trust their parents, seeing in them a potential threat instead of protection. Moreover, in her more recent another study with other authors, Gershoff et al. found a correlation between physical punishment and abuse since when physical exposure becomes the norm, it becomes easier for parents to cross the line and start abusing their children.
Thirdly, corporal punishment has irreversible adverse effects. They have a significant impact on children’s mental health. It perpetuates violence and aggressive behavior, leading the child to model the same actions toward other children, and as they grow older, possibly to their loved ones as well. In particular, according to Gershoff et al., corporal punishment was associated with nine negative consequences, including an increase in aggression, mental health problems, and an increase in the chance of being targeted. Besides, a 2018 study by Del Hoyo-Bilbao et al. found that children who have been subjected to corporal punishment by their parents are more prone to abusing their parents in the future as a kind of revenge.
Considering all these points, we can draw some conclusions. First, corporal punishment works only in the short term. Secondly, they worsen the relationship between parents and children, and can even lead to revenge from matured children. Thirdly, physical punishments negatively affect the mental health of children. Thus, corporal punishment is not an effective means of education, and should not be used by parents.
- Del Hoyo-Bilbao, Joana, Manuel Gámez-Guadix, and Esther Calvete. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Child-to-Parent Aggression in Spanish Adolescents.” Anales de Psicología/Annals of Psychology, vol. 34, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 108-116, https://doi.org/10.6018/analesps.34.1.259601.
- Gershoff, Elizabeth T., et al. “The Strength of the Causal Evidence against Physical Punishment of Children and Its Implications for Parents, Psychologists, and Policymakers.” American Psychologist, vol. 73, no. 5, July 2018, pp. 626–638. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/amp0000327.
- Gershoff, Elizabeth Thompson. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review.” Psychological Bulletin, vol. 128, no. 4, July 2002, pp. 539–579. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.539.
- Turns, Brie A., and D.Scott Sibley. “Does Maternal Spanking Lead to Bullying Behaviors at School? A Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Child & Family Studies, vol. 27, no. 9, Sept. 2018, pp. 2824–2832. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10826-018-1129-x.