Last modified on April 30, 2023, at 23:48

Corporal punishment

Corporal pu.jpg

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, 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] However, British teachers have warned that student behavior has markedly declined in Britain since the abolition of corporal punishment in British schools about a quarter century ago. A poll of 814 teachers, conducted by Association of Teachers and Lecturers and published in 2012, found a third had been hit or kicked by a student in the previous academic year.[3]

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.[4]

The last US State to retain whipping as an official punishment for crime was Delaware, in the 1950s.[5]

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.

Effectiveness of Parental Spanking

Surveys show that a majority of American adults agree that "it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking".[6] Despite this, liberal activists have sometimes used scientific studies to claim that spanking children is not effective. However, these studies contain serious methodological flaws including the 'lumping fallacy' where researchers with an agenda lump spanking together with serious physical violence and the 'correlational fallacy', where researchers find that badly behaved children are more likely to be spanked and incorrectly infer that the spanking caused the bad behaviour instead of the bad behaviour causing the spanking. [7] An unbiased meta-analysis of the scientific evidence found that traditional spanking "is not associated with any more adverse outcomes in children than is any other type of corrective discipline" and that "spanking is one of the most effective disciplinary tactics" for children aged 2-6.[8] Furthermore, there is evidence that child delinquency and crime has increased in countries like Sweden after they have banned spanking.[9]. By contrast, Singapore, where spanking is culturally accepted and is common both at home and in school,[10] and where corporal punishment is imposed by courts for some criminal offences,[11] has a very low rate of youth crime and has been ranked "the world’s safest city" for personal security.[12]


  1. Child corporal punishment: spanking at "Religious tolerance" website.
  2. The Natural Child Project.
  3. Pupil behaviour worse since abolition of caning, warn teachers
  4. Country Files at World Corporal Punishment Research.
  5. Newman, Graeme. Just and Painful, Chapter 9. Macmillan, London (1985). ISBN 0-02-923130-2
  6. Harry Enten,, Americans’ Opinions On Spanking Vary By Party, Race, Region And Religion
  7. [1] Larzelere et al (2018) Improving Causal Inferences in Meta-analyses of Longitudinal Studies: Spanking as an Illustration
  8. Larzelere and Kuhn (2007) Comparing Child Outcomes of Physical Punishment and Alternative Disciplinary Tactics: A Meta-Analysis
  9. [2] Robert E. Larzelere, Marjorie Lindner Gunnoe, Mark W. Roberts & Christopher J. Ferguson (2017) Children and Parents Deserve Better Parental Discipline Research: Critiquing the Evidence for Exclusively “Positive” Parenting, Marriage & Family Review, 53:1, 24-35, DOI: 10.1080/01494929.2016.1145613
  10. The Asian Parent - Young Singaporean parents may still be using corporal punishment. Here's why!
  11. Singapore Legal Advice - Corporal Punishment
  12. OSAC Singapore 2020 Crime & Safety Report

External links