So what is corporal punishment? Corporal punishment as related to children is "punishment administered by an adult (as a parent or a teacher) to the body of a child ranging in severity from a slap to a spanking" (Merriam). In other words, corporal punishment is the use of force to punish a child for a transgression. Corporal punishment is anything from slapping or spanking to cold showers to full on abuse. Although many parents use one or more types of corporal punishment, most don't know anything about the consequences; In fact, most only do it because that's the way they were raised. Despite these views and practices being antiquated, corporal punishment is still used often as a disciplinary form. Not only is corporal punishment a terrible way to punish children, it also has ill-effects later in life, the least of which is that those that have corporal punishment used on them are more likely to then use corporal punishment on their children, continuing the circle. So what are the statistics on corporal punishment, what is included in corporal punishment, what are the effects on children now and later in life, and what are the alternatives to using corporal punishment as a form of discipline?
How many children actually experience corporal punishment as a form of discipline anyways? Let’s talk about schools first. "Nineteen states have laws permitting corporal punishment in schools. In the 2005-2006 school year, 223,190 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment." (NCACPS). Although this number is shrinking, and has been every year, this trend still needs to stop. Also, "studies show significantly more fatal school shootings took place in states that allow corporal punishment in schools." (NCACPS 2). Ok, so some schools are using the paddle, but that doesn't mean parents are too right? Wrong. The National Survey of Early Childhood Health in 2004 shows "Six percent of parents surveyed indicated they ever spanked their children ages four to nine months old. Twenty-nine percent spanked their children ten to eighteen months old, and 64% spanked their children who were nineteen to thirty-five months old. Frequent spankings were also administered by some parents (11%) of children ten to eighteen months old and nineteen to thirty-five months old (26%).” (Net industries). SO obviously this issue is extremely prevalent, I mean “more than a third (35%) of parents used corporal punishment on their infants, reaching a peak of 94% for parents of children who were three to four years old.” (Net industries) This means that it is highly probable that a child will experience some type of corporal punishment before they reach age five. SO now that it’s been established that most children will experience corporal punishment before age five, and that it is a prevalent issue, what is considered corporal punishment?
When you hear “corporal punishment” the first thing most people think of is spanking. However, there are many other actions included in this term. The most obvious ones are spanking, hitting, slapping, flicking, or any other kind of negative physical contact of any form to any part of a child’s body. However, there are other types of corporal punishment. These include shaming or ridiculing them.This kind of punishment is also considered corporal punishment by many experts, as well as myself.
Effects of using corporal punishment on children can be immediate, or delayed. Let’s start with immediate effects. First off, according to Eric P. Slade and Lawrence S. Wissow “compared with children who were never spanked, white non-Hispanic children who were frequently spanked (five times a week) before age two were four times more likely to have behavioral problems by the time they started school.” They determined this by conducting a survey that was original to its time called: "Spanking in Early Childhood and Later Behavior Problems: A Prospective Study of Infants and Young Toddlers.” Also from the NASW or the National association of social workers “Research has demonstrated a link between physical punishment and several negative developmental outcomes for children: physical injury, increased aggression, antisocial behavior, poorer adult adjustment, and greater tolerance of violence.” (NASW) there’s also the statement from Dr. Hyman who has done extensive research on this subject and has 30 years of clinical experience. He has publically come out with many statements against the use of corporal punishment, as well as its effects on children. He states “While the prospankers interpret the lack of research on the harmful effects of spanking with preschoolers as proof that it is OK, I disagree and maintain that there is no reason to ever hit a child.” He goes on and says much more then I can include here, but can be summed up to: corporal punishment of any kind, even normal spankings, do not teach the child, they do not help, but they do cause problems such as violence issues, behavioral issues, and self esteem issues at the least. Those are just the problems that happen immediately. Also punishing your child by spanking their bottom, considered an erogenous areas, it could cause them to associate pleasure with pain. Many more issues can be hidden away for years, and although I won’t quote everything I’ve found, I’ll include the links in my sources cited. Corporal punishment can lead not only to violence issues later in life, but also sexual issues. “One stat: the 25 percent of university students who ranked highest on a corporal punishment scale insisted on sex without a condom, compared with the 12.5 percent of university students who scored lowest on the scale. Another: 75 percent of college students who'd been spanked a lot said they were sexually aroused by masochistic sex, compared with 40 percent of students who were never spanked.” (The Daily Beast) The scary part of this is the experts that conducted this study were unsurprised with the results. There are many other effects later in life as well. These include problems like depression (sage journals), Aggression (livestrong), higher tendency to use physical abuse (livestrong), impaired cognitive development (livestong), trust issues (CNN), and much, much more. All in all, corporal punishment is an ineffective means of punishment, so what are the alternatives?
When considering how to effectively discipline your children you have to consider things like “the parent–child relationship, reinforcement of desired behaviors, and consequences for negative behaviors.”(Pediatrics) And also realize that “Corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects.” (Pediatrics). To begin with, as infants, the most effective type of discipline is verbal, “a firm no helps prepare the infant for later use of reasoning.” (Pediatrics) Although the verbal discipline won’t regulate the infants behavior, using a “No” right before physically stopping the child will teach them what “No” means and also no to do that activity. As the child gets older, one effective form of discipline is Positive Reinforcement. This is the opposite of the norm of repressing bad behavior. Instead you do things like giving them more attention, softer voice, more caresses, etc. when they perform a desired action. For example, if a toddler is screaming in a store, you don’t give them the attention they are looking for by doing that until they take a breath, and as soon as they are quite, you ravish attention upon them. This shows them that they get the attention they want when they are quiet, instead of screaming. This also includes being flexible, particularly with older children and adolescents, through listening and negotiation to reduce fewer episodes of child noncompliance with parental expectations. Involving the child in decision-making has been associated with long-term enhancement in moral judgment (Pediatrics). If the actions seems to still be occurring, you can reduce and eliminate the undesirable behavior by doing several things. The first thing is make sure that the parent and child are both clear on what the undesirable behavior is, and what the consequence is should it continue to occur. (Pediatrics) The next step is to provide “a strong and immediate initial consequence when the targeted behavior first occurs.” (Pediatrics) This makes sure that the child knows exactly what she/he is being punished for. Also, being consistent with the punishment is important as well. These punishments are most effective if they are consequences such as “time-out,” loss of privileges or a certain toy for a set period of time, or non violent verbal reprimands. Once the child knows what they have done wrong, it’s best to deliver “instruction and correction calmly and with empathy.” (Pediatrics) Doing all these things will help your child from a very young age, and won’t cause the issues that corporal punishment does.
In conclusion, after seeing the statics on corporal punishment, what’s included in corporal punishment, what are the effects now and later on of corporal punishment on children, and what the alternatives are, I feel safe in concluding that I’ve armed you with the information, as well as other sources to make the decision for yourself not to participate in corporal punishment of children. It’s a degrading, medieval form of discipline that needs to be eradicated now.
- (CNN) http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9708/14/nfm.spanking/
- (Dr. Hyman) http://www.nospank.net/hyman2.htm
- (Livestrong) http://www.livestrong.com/article/213859-long-term-effects-of-physical-punishment-on-a-child/
- (NASW) http://www.socialworkers.org/resources/abstracts/abstracts/physical.asp
- (NCACPS) http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=statesbanning
- (NCACPS 2) http://www.stophitting.com/index.php?page=factsvsopinions
- (Merriam) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corporal%20punishment
- (Net industries) http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/1401/Causes-Effects-Child-Abuse-CORPORAL-PUNISHMENT.html
- (Pediatrics) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/101/4/723.full
- (Sage Journals) http://jfi.sagepub.com/content/25/6/761.abstract
- (The Daily Beast) http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/02/27/spare-the-rod.html