Corporal punishment outmoded, ineffective
Let’s Do Better

By Brenda Robinson
source:, July 6, 2011

Let’s examine "domestic corporal punishment," also know as spanking, whipping, slapping or even beating a child. This punishment may be given with an open hand, belt, slipper, paddle, switch, extension cord or other items that may be within parents’ reach.

Some readers will say, “I got whipped/spanked/ beaten and it didn’t hurt me. That’s the reason kids are in the shape they are today, parents stopped whipping kids.” And, those who condone corporal punishment are young and old. Parents less than 30-years-old are seen spanking and slapping kids and older adults are heard saying, that’s just what he/she needed. Our over 50-year-old readers have certainly heard phrases from parents such as, “I’ll slap you into the middle of next week. I’ll slap all the black off you.”

Although corporal punishment in the home is legal within the U.S., Canada, Australia, Africa (exclude Kenya), the Middle East, most parts of Eastern Asia and the United Kingdom, some countries, “don’t play that.” Actually, I discovered 29 countries where corporal punishment is illegal: Austria, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Kenya, Poland, Spain and Venezuela among them. In Singapore and Hong Kong corporal punishment is legal, but discouraged.

Although devising a criminal justice approach to making corporal punishment illegal in the U.S. would be a huge challenge, I believe corporal punishment is non-productive. Parents can find more appropriate disciplinary measures.

In most cultures, prior to 1950, corporal punishment was considered acceptable by the majority of parents. In 1946, Dr. Benjamin Spock, a pediatrician, wrote a book, “Baby and Child Care.” This book encouraged parents to be more flexible and affectionate toward their children and to discover more “sane” methods of discipline. Other disciplinary methods (time out, restricting social activities, taking away privileges, denying access to television, video games, sports activities, etc.) did not catch on until the 1960s, However, Dr. Spock is credited with changing America’s thinking on corporal punishment.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirmed in 2004 that corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially side effects. Their policy statement pointed out, summarizing several studies: “The more children are spanked, the more anger they report as adults, the more likely they are to spank their own children, the more likely they are to approve of hitting a spouse, the more marital conflict they experience as adults.”

Spanking has been associated with higher rates of physical aggression, more substance abuse and increased risk of crime and violence when used with older children and adolescents. The AAP added open-hand spanking on the buttocks or other extremities is acceptable. However, another study by Robert Larzelere suggested spanking on the buttocks should only occur with children ages two through six years and less than once weekly. Comparisons with this study showed time-outs were just as effective as the spankings. The National Association of Social Workers opposes the use of physical punishment in homes, schools and all other institutions where children are cared for and educated.

Readers are invited to take a serious look at their experiences with corporal punishment and ask some direct questions. If you whip your child or know someone who whips, did this practice really make the child act better? Or, did the more the beatings occurred, the more the beatings were administered, the more behavior stayed the same? My observation is the kids who get beat are generally the kids who are more likely to make poor grades, dropout of school and experience the criminal justice system. My observation is adults and children will lie about an action when the consequence is a physical strapping.

Finally, think about how much anxiety a 10-year-old child would experience waiting for his 6’ 200 lb., father to “come home and administer the beating.” Awaiting such a punishment is enough to cause a heart attack.

Readers, just because something was always done a certain way is no reason to always continue to do it that way. Now that we know better, let’s do better.

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