Corporal punishment is the application of any form of physical punishment, like poking, smacking, spanking, tugging, turning, or beating with an object. Simply inflicting harm on anyone, whether it be a child, an adult, or even an animal, but in the context of this essay; a child. As it applies to children, it may also involve pushing that child to do unpleasant things as a form of punishment for wrongdoing. Corporal Punishment has been used as a means of disciplining for hundreds of years; to punish children, criminals, and is still to this very day a conventional way of punishment, especially in third-world countries.
Nonetheless, corporal punishments still take place in the United States and have been noticed to mostly occur in Middle and Lower-class homes. But why is that? Why is there a correlation between these groups and the exercise of corporal punishment? Why does such an old form of discipline still exist? And why on children in America? For starters, a lot of parents, especially minorities, have established amongst themselves that corporal punishment is the best and only way to discipline a child when they have done wrong. The unfortunate truth, however, is that many parents have found it to be effective.
It can definitely stop a child from destroying furniture, lying, or whatever bad habit they have picked up. And this sometimes follows generationally, children who have been beaten by their parents end up doing the same thing to their children because with their experience they believe it is effective in making a good-behaving child. However, a lot of times it does not. This also applies to parents who think otherwise on the whole idea of beating children. They sometimes find themselves with children who are not disciplined or are disobedient. The truth of the matter is that there is not a specific answer to the question of how to discipline one's child because all children, as well as parents, are different.
The effects corporal punishment has on children in adulthood varies. Because all parents are different. Some factors worth considering are home types. In abusive homes, the parent or guardian might beat the child more often than in a more moderate home. It truly all comes down to the parent or guardian of the house because, at a young age, children are more reliable to the affection their parents/ guardians are offering even after beating them, but when a child is beaten often and is not shown affection, this has a great effect on their behavior. Corporal Punishment is a disciplinary style that a lot Americans use on their children, despite there being evidence suggesting it's harmful side effects on children in adulthood, such as aggression, antisocial behavior, lower intellectual achievement, mental health problems, such as depression, and others; it’s still practiced.
The main question is who and which social class could be most affected by this? A great number of people think it has a stronger correlation to race due to stereotypes, prejudice, and other reasons, a lot of people think it only takes place in minority homes. However, all this is not true as the constant exercise of corporal punishment varies depending on the social class of those children, this is because a wealthier child, to a certain extent, has much more punishment options compared to a less fortunate child. These are just some of the reasons why parents use this as a form of discipline. But there's a reason why a lot of upper-class parents don’t physically discipline their children, this is not because they understand the possible effects on their children as they develop, but because they have a lot of options on how to punish them, like video games, telephones, and other forms of entertainment, they only shift to corporal punishment when they’re out of options.
All this to say, upper-class children can be punished in ways such as the reduction of allowances, confiscation of valuable property, and other punishment alternatives, and their parents only might turn to corporal punishment as their final option. Another reason might be that the parents or guardians of upper-class children might have come from generations that did not rely on corporal punishment as a means of correction; these, however, are just some reasons as to why upper-class children do not get beaten after wrongdoing. On the middle and lower- class side of things, children that are not as fortunate tend to have fewer alternatives to punishment, so it would only make sense to spank the child. Although a lot of countries around the world have banned spanking of children, it is still permitted in countries like America. In places like Sweden, it is illegal.
A 2007 United Nation convention has declared that corporal punishment violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from corporal punishments of all sorts. many countries still promote it despite that. A 1999 survey led by Murray A. Straus and Julie H. Stewart, called 'Corporal Punishment by American Parents,' reported that 94 percent of parents have spanked their child by age three or four, and 50 percent still spanked when the child was 13 years old. The survey also revealed that African-American and low-income parents were the most likely to use physical punishment. Although common, physical punishment does have negative lasting effects (Holly, 2010).
Parents are the ones to blame on this one, but it is because their parents did the same to them. Parents or guardians tend to use it on children because for the most part, their parents used it on them, and they believe it only brings out the best of a child. It follows generations as they have established within themselves that it is effective. They believe that because they turned out not to be aggressive or with any mental disorders, and that their children would be okay too if they use this disciplinary tactic on their children. But the very act of beating a child is aggressive.
Some parents, even those who believe it to be bad, unconsciously find themselves doing this as their parents did it to them. Parents that are stressed or tired use this as a way to control their child, they might shout and yell at their child, but those only tend to be effective when the child knows what the parent is capable of doing. How many times have you seen your parents yell and become violent when angry? You may have also observed this behavior on yourself. Parents typically resort to punishment when they are too tired or too stressed. Some parents beat their children because they believe their children are too young to comprehend any other type of discipline, and of course, this might be the case, but if the baby is too young to comprehend instructions there is no point in beating them.
In 'The case against spanking' Corporal punishment pretty much always results in weeping and compliance. 'Once children cry and stop behaving rudely, parents start to feel in control of the situation'(Smith APA). Smith explains the recent discoveries of physical discipline on children and the effects it has on children later in life. Smith explains that physical punishment can work momentarily to stop problematic behavior because children are afraid of being hit, but it doesn’t work in the long term and can make children more aggressive(2012). The article also explains how the world has reacted to such news:
Around the world, 30 countries have banned physical punishment of children in all settings, including the home. 'The legal bans typically have been used as public education tools, rather than attempts to criminalize behavior by parents who spank their children,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, a physiological professor and principal investigator of Child Violence(2012). They are unaware of other ways of disciplining children. Most of the time, parents don't know that there are many more convenient styles of disciplining children without actually inflicting pain, such as reinforcing, and the use of support and negative punishments. Some negative punishments, like time-out, are found to be more effective than positive punishments, like corporal punishment. The information sent to children through corporal punishment is one of aggression. But in today's day and age corporal punishment can also be verbal, it may include regularly telling a child that he is unimportant, useless, unloved or undesired, and threatening to use physical or psychological violence on him. This message of aggression, more than the actual physical punishment, has an important effect on a child’s psychological health later in life. She explains that this can lower self-esteem, difficulties concentrating in class, causing poor academic performance. She also explains that in the worst-case scenario the child might start to contemplate killing himself/herself.
Progressively, some parents however never physically punish their children, because they recognize the possible outcomes of such actions, like Parents who use corporal punishment in their children, use out-of-control approaches for handling stressful situations. Considering the power of observational learning and the influence parents have on their children, parents can use these stressful situations to teach children how to calmly and effectively change habits. Parents who use corporal punishment in their children inform them on what not to do rather than what they should do. Instead of punishing your 7-month old baby for sucking his or her toy, you can give a teether, or do some other tricks (that the child can follow) with the toy. Parents who use corporal punishment in their children can instill fear, rage, and avoidance into their children. Ideally, parents want their children to grow to be positive, calm and welcoming.
Almost always, parents want their children to love them. Voluntarily using corporal punishment on your children will make them fear you, ignite anger in them, and cause them to consequently avoid you. Fear can also be generalized to other situations as well. Child abuse and neglect have repeatedly been shown to be risks for psychiatric and character disorders. However, much of this evidence is based on historical reports of adults. Besides, little is known about the developmental course of psychopathology among those exposed to child maltreatment so don't be upset if your children have trouble obeying rules in the future. Parents who use corporal punishment on their children can be abusive. Some parents use corporal punishment on their children for no reason, and this abusive behavior tends to be displayed by the child, possibly to themselves or even to other children in school.
And it causes other innovative parents to wonder how they are supposed to discipline their child for wrong-doing. A study in Canada has shown that spanking reduces grey matter in the brain, 'the connective tissue in between brain cells. It is also an integral part of the nervous system and influences intelligence testing and performance skills'. Like speech, response time, muscle control, emotion and much more. She explains that this form of child abuse goes deep into people’s way of thinking. And can be a big factor in mentally ill people. She explains that medical professionals have consistently found a link between corporal punishment and child aggression(Castelloe, 2012). So how does corporal punishment affect children from different social classes later in adulthood? Well, to some extent everyone who is beaten as a child is affected. Some, more than the other. It might cause some people to be extremely violent and others to be not so violent.
And such a topic always arouses the response 'I was beaten as a child, and I turned out okay,' but the reality is that they never really are. To so extent, you are going to be more aggressive, more antisocial than if you were not beaten, and people find that hard to believe. It does not only cause one to be violent but it even affects their health it causes young to “regularly die at a younger age of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses'' says Alan Kazdin (Hamblin, How Spanking Kids Affects Later Relationships) Another factor worth considering is age. It all depends on the age of the child. As for babies, they act to test their developing skills. They also enjoy making and seeing things happen. For example, a baby probably likes throwing things and randomly yelling, or pulling your hair, this is done to get a reaction out of you, not to inflict harm. Babies have no understanding of consequences.
They also don’t know the difference between right and wrong. This means that negative consequences, or punishment, don’t work for babies. Therefore, there’s no point in trying to punish children this young. Instead, babies need compassionate, loving care so they feel secure. So when your baby pulls your hair, you might say ‘no!’ and show him how to touch your hair gently. You’ll probably need to do this repeatedly because the baby might not remember from one time to the next. For toddlers, Toddlers often struggle with big feelings like anger and frustration as they grow up. During this time the child's social and emotional skills are only just starting to expand, and he or she might be testing out their growing independence.
You can help your child behave well by listening to his or her feelings, changing the environment, distracting him and planning for challenging situations. For preschoolers, from about the age of three years, most preschoolers start to understand what acceptable behavior is and what is not. They will try out different behaviors, and they might behave in certain ways more than once as they learn about the consequences of their actions. You can help your preschooler by setting boundaries and being strict about the behavior you want to see. And, as for school-aged children, they might know how to behave in different situations – for example, school, home or the library.
And as for teenagers, this is the easiest and hardest to deal with as they can sometimes be voluntarily stubborn, but are very aware of what is right and wrong. Physical punishment has negative effects on child outcomes, especially if it is harsh, regardless of culture. When punishment use is normative in a culture, the effects are somewhat less negative. Research findings support ongoing efforts to help parents use more positive methods of parenting, and the removal of defense in law for the use of physical punishment against children.
The evidence about whether physical punishment results in short-term compliance is mixed, with some studies showing effectiveness in delivering this and others not. Short-term compliance can, however, be achieved as effectively without using physical punishment(Smith, The State of Research on the Effects of Physical Punishment). But they still need you to warn them of the limits and praise them for good behavior. Of course, as they grow older their punishments change as some become less efficient on them. The best way to correct a child of that age area is to communicate with them. It should be understood that as a child grows older, their behaviors will keep changing and their attitude will also change.
- American Psychological Association. (2019). Physical Punishment of Children. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/about/policy/physical-discipline
- Gershoff, E. T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2016). Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(4), 453–469. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000191
- Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2020). Corporal punishment in the home and schools in the USA. Retrieved from https://endcorporalpunishment.org/reports-on-every-state-and-territory/united-states-of-america/
- Holly, L. (2010). Physical punishment and mental disorders: Results from a nationally representative US sample. Pediatrics, 125(5), e1057–e1065. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-2678
- Katz, L. (2019). Corporal Punishment and Child Maltreatment: A Review of Major Historical, Legal, and Philosophical Debates. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(4), 947–960. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1279-3
- Straus, M. A., & Stewart, J. H. (1999). Corporal punishment by American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration, in relation to child and family characteristics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2(2), 55–70. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021943806563
- United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. (2007). General Comment No. 8 (2006): The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment (arts. 1; 28, para. 2; and 37, inter alia). Retrieved from https://www.refworld.org/docid/460bc7772.html
- United Nations. (2019). Corporal punishment in the United States of America. Retrieved from https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CRC/Shared%20Documents/USA/INT_CRC_CSS_USA_39854_E.pdf
- Zolotor, A. J., Theodore, A. D., Chang, J. J., Berkoff, M. C., & Runyan, D. K. (2008). Speak softly--and forget the stick. Corporal punishment and child physical abuse. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35(4), 364–369. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2008.06.031