Should Paddling be Banned in Schools?
By Dr. Ralph S. Welsh

A letter to the editor of, May 14, 2001

Dear Editor:

Recently you published an article asking whether corporal punishment should be allowed or banished in the schools. After 25 years of research into the relationship between corporal punishment and delinquency, the answer is a no brainer.We have found the following :

  1. The degree of violence seen in any one of my delinquent subjects is highly correlated with the amount and severity of physical parental punishment they received growing up.
  2. The range of implements parents use on their children, even in this day and age, staggers the imagination.My delinquent patients have been hit with belts, boards, extension cords, fists, rubber hoses, dog chains, and 2X4s--yes, even 2X4s.
  3. The recidivist male delinquent who has never been hit with a belt, board cord or fist is nearly non-existent.
  4. All of the major assassins of the world were victims of the belt--Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray, and Arthur Bremmer just to name a few; Joseph Stalin, perhaps the worst butcher of our time, was a known battered child.
  5. Males are more aggressive than females, and pit bulls more aggressive than collies--but if you beat a girl or a collie long enough, you have one angry, aggressive individual. If you buy a pit bull puppy and give it a lot of love and above all don't hit it, it will be one of the nicest and most loyal animals you will ever own--just don't think you can paper train a pit bull by hitting it---very dangerous, indeed.
  6. Corporal punishment can only work through the inculcation of fear; unfortunately, when the fear wears off, anger is left in its place.
  7. Nearly every parent who hits was hit as a kid themselves, and insists that a good old fashioned whack on the rear doesn't do anyone any harm; not true.Every whack results in sensory desensitization (partly through the beta endorphin system, and partly through adaptation to pain) and adds a little anger to the system; when the child becomes insensitive to the beatings (nearly all of my delinquent kids would rather be beaten than grounded) he/she becomes blunted to the hurt of others (including the parents) and needs additional stimulus input through the use of drugs or reckless thrill seeking behavior. Ultimately the fear of being put away becomes blunted.On the average, I see 2 to 3 delinquents a week as a contracted court evaluator, many of whom are in detention.I was amazed to discover that most of my locked-up delinquent teens rate their mood (and get this, these are kids locked in a jail-type facility) as a 7 or 8 on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 feeling depressed, and 10 feeling great; go figure.On the other hand, most of them rate their anger 7 or 8 on an anger scale of 1 to 10, ten being the highest degree of anger. They obviously walk around feeling angry, but rather satisfied with life; several years ago one kid tried to break into detention because he found it much nicer there than home--no one beat him in detention, he had a lot of friends there, and he got 3 square meals a day.
  8. There are no differences in the amount of delinquency between ethnic groups when one holds corporal punishment constant.Those ethnic groups that use a lot of corporal punishment during child rearing invariably have the higher crime rates.
  9. No one can have a violent child without beating him/her; I am totally convinced of this, after evaluating thousands of delinquent boys and girls, and exhaustively interviewing their parents; some of the parents I have talked to have had lives of physical mistreatment beyond belief. As one mother told me, "I don't know why Billy is so angry; we only hit him with a belt; I was hit with sticks, pipes, shoes, kicked with hob nailed boots, and forced to kneel for hours on rice, facing the corner of the wall; he doesn't begin to know what punishment is." Parents, unfortunately, use themselves as the gold standard of discipline.
  10. Hitting children in the school, to insure good discipline is not only idiotic, it is a dangerous example to others.It is no surprise that the states that held on to corporal punishment in the school room the longest were those states with the highest rates of violence.
  11. The aggressive Type A (cardiac prone) individual is more commonly a childhood victim of the belt; high blood pressure is more common in those who can not effectively control their anger, and we find they, too, are more often former children of the belt.
  12. Teens who threaten suicide are often physically mistreated kids who are unable to turn their anger outword, so they turn it inward on themselves; kids who are beaten, especially girls, are at high risk for making suicidal gestures. In short, use the belt to hold up your pants; I have said for years that the Surgeon General should decree that every belt manufacturer stamp the following warning on the back of every belt manufactured in this country (and China for the matter) Danger!The use of this implement on your child is dangerous to his mental health.
Thanks for listening.

Ralph S. Welsh, PhD, ABPP
Diplomate in Clinical Psychology
Contributer, Am. Psychological Assoc. Task force on Violence and Member, Advisory Board of The Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Issues in the Schools, Temple University, Phil., PA


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