Spanking: The Pros and Cons of Corporal Punishment

A comprehensive analysis of the reported benefits and harmful effects of corporal punishment in the United States.

Over the past two decades, parental use of physical punishment has become an increasingly controversial practice. The paper explains that the controversy has been further fueled by a growing body of evidence that suggests that physical punishment is associated with a number of negative developmental consequences for children, including higher levels of aggression, poorer mental health, lower levels of moral internalization, impaired parent-child relationships, and higher risk of abuse of the child. This paper provides an overview of the issues involved in spanking children as a means of punishment and instilling a sense of self-control, followed by a summary of the research in the conclusion.
“The proper objectives of a system of punishment administered by the state have been the subject of debate among philosophers, educators, lawyers, and legislators for centuries. A variety of different theories or objectives of punishment have been proposed, some differing only in minor ways depending on the age of the child involved. The research into how toddlers develop self-control indicates that most children exhibit the ability to control their behavior after age one year (Dworetzky), which becomes more refined after age six years. In his novel, Waldon Two, B. F. Skinner described a utopian society which was built on psychological principles. One of these principles involved a method by which children were taught to delay immediate gratification in favor of long-term advantage. According to Skinner, children would be able to “generalize this ability to new situations” (Dworetzky, 1990, p. 119). The world of young children is not quite this utopian, however, and practically all parents and teachers experience situations in which children exhibit little or no self-control. However, by applying some alternatives techniques, parents, teachers and other caregivers can help provide appropriate role models for behavior and communicate appropriate models of behavior to children as young as one year old without the need to resort to corporal punishment.”