Spanking is the most common form of corporal punishment used against children. Although corporal punishment can refer to any form of bodily punishment, such as flogging or branding, the term is more often used to refer to milder forms of physical punishment, especially spanking. Although corporal punishment can refer to any form of bodily punishment, such as flogging or branding, the term is more often used to refer to milder forms of physical punishment, especially spanking.
Despite its widespread acceptance, corporal punishment of children has long triggered controversy (Trumbull & Ravenel 2005). In recent years, it has been at the center of what some have coined the discipline wars-the often impassioned debate among parents, educators and health professionals over the best way to teach children right from wrong.
According to Sanchez (2001), nearly every person raised in the U.S. has memories of being spanked as a child. In surveys, more than 90% of parents admit to having spanked their children, and a smaller number, between 60% and 70%, admit to spanking them regularly. Moreover, statistics show that while the popularity of spanking is declining among educators, about a half million spankings take place in U.S. public schools annually.
Many adults cite their own childhood experience with corporal punishment as evidence that the practice is harmless. Others defend their belief in corporal punishment by citing the Bible, including its advice in Proverbs (13:24): Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them. They say the Bible portrays the use of corporal punishment not only as an act of discipline, but also as an act of love. In a society where temptation, drug abuse and violence are commonplace, spanking advocates explain, administering forceful discipline, including spanking, can ultimately be a saving grace for children by teaching them to stay away from danger (Rosemond 2004).
Critics and Debate
The most vocal critics of corporal punishment call it a shameful and anachronistic practice. They contend that spanking children is not only tantamount to child abuse but also fosters a more aggressive society at large by teaching children that violence is an acceptable way to settle problems (Rosellini 2006). Opponents point out that the use of corporal punishment has been outlawed for every other group against whom it was frequently directed in the past, including prisoners, women and servants. It is outrageous, they say, that children remain the only people in America who may be legally beaten.
A rising tide of health professionals and organizations, including the American Psychological Association and the American Association of Pediatrics, has urged parents and educators to stop using corporal punishment (Lerner 2005). They say research shows that spanking is an ineffective and often counterproductive disciplinary technique. Many child-development experts cite studies linking corporal punishment to higher rates of adolescent delinquency, adult depression and even lower intelligence among children.
Advocates of spanking are quick to say that they do not defend any form of corporal punishment ...