Corporal punishment

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Corporal punishment is the infliction of physical pain in response to wrongdoing, typically by methodically striking a particular part of the offender's body with an implement such as a paddle, or with the open hand. Its purpose is to correct, reform and deter the miscreant, and to deter others from similar misconduct.

Spanking of children and teens, whether at home or at school, is the most usual kind of corporal punishment. Parents are urged by the Bible to spank their offspring when they misbehave, for instance in Proverbs 13:24 (He who withholds the rod hateth his son).

Darrel Reid, head of Focus on the Family - Canada (an evangelical Christian group) said that "The theological underpinning for family corporal punishment is tied up with the responsibility that God gives families for raising the young. You can find it particularly in the early books of the Bible, where God says your responsibility is not just nurturing but also correcting them."[1]

Some people oppose the spanking of children, and in some countries (e.g. Sweden) it is illegal even for parents to do so. Swedish Member of Parliament Sixten Pettersson stated "In a free democracy like our own, we use words as arguments, not blows. We talk to people and do not beat them. If we can't convince our children with words, we shall never convince them with violence".

In some states of the United States a foster parent may not spank a foster child.

Claiming to draw upon the latest research on brain development, a "therapist", Alice Miller, attacks childhood corporal punishment and asserts that spanking causes emotional blindness and leads to mental barriers that cut off awareness and the ability to learn new ways of acting. If this cycle repeats itself, the grown child will perpetrate the same "abuse" on later generations, Miller alleges.[2]

Judicial corporal punishment is the infliction of physical pain upon a person's body as punishment for a crime or infraction, such as by caning or whipping. This kind of penalty remains on the statute book in several Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries.[3]

The last US State to retain whipping as an official punishment for crime was Delaware, in the 1950s.[4]

In a broad sense, corporal punishments include flogging, beating, branding, mutilation, blinding, and the use of the stock and pillory. The Torah (Judaism) describes some forms of corporal punishment for certain crimes and sins. The Bible contains seven verses that relate to the spanking of children.


  1. Child corporal punishment: spanking at "Religious tolerance" website.
  2. The Natural Child Project.
  3. Country Files at World Corporal Punishment Research.
  4. Newman, Graeme. Just and Painful, Chapter 9. Macmillan, London (1985). ISBN 0-02-923130-2

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