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The Negative Effects of Corporal Punishment

In the long debate over the effectiveness of Corporal Punishment, this article argues for its disadvantages.

Cpl. Punishment

            What would you think if you heard that a police officer beat a man for committing a crime?  This would not be something that would be accepted by most people as an adequete punishment. Could something so unjust happen in Canada? How is this situation different from a parent beating their child for doing something wrong? It has the same cause and effect, and yet there are still supporters of this controversial punishment worldwide. They claim that physically assaulting a child is the only way to effectively punish them. Is it really rational? Corporal punishment is not reasonable for several reasons.

            First, corporal punishment causes people to do the opposite of what the punishment was meant for. An analyst of 88 studies by Dr. Gershoff of Columbia University found that people who were physically punished as a child were more likely to become depressed, have suicidal thoughts, strike siblings and peers, perform poorly at school, become delinquents and commit crimes, have career problems and abuse their own children and spouses, when adults. The only tradeoff was that it delivered immediate compliance to the parent.[1] When experiencing fear, anger or physical punishment, adrenaline appears. When this is repetitive, the endocrine systems fails to balance and the victim becomes prone to anger and violent outbursts.[2] Corporal punishment does not correct behavior, but can condone violence.

            Second, corporal punishment has another undesirable side affect: a lower IQ. On children, corporal punishment is stressful as it is usually continuous. This stress shows an increase in post-traumatic stress syndrome which is linked to lower IQ. A study by Dr. Strauss of New Hampshire University found that younger kids who were spanked had a 5 point lower IQ, while older kids had a 2.8 point lower IQ.[3]

            Third, since corporal punishment usually works only during the time it is dealt, it must be repeated whenever the child misbehaves. This may cause the punishment to escalate and may eventually become plain child abuse. The Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuses stated that 85% of all child abuse resulted from over discipline through corporal punishment. This causes 44 annual child deaths at the hand of family members with 35 by parents. It is clear that it is likely for corporal punishment to become severe.[4]

            Many supporters of corporal punishment say that by using corporal punishment to instill fear in children, they can teach them to respect their elders.[5] But as Judith Martin of Miss Manners said: “Whamming someone smaller than oneself in order to teach that person civilized behavior is not within Miss Manners’ concept of propriety, much less logic”.[6] Corporal punishment can cause children to hide their wrongdoings as they learn that what they are doing is wrong, but not why it is wrong. There are non-violent alternatives such as positive reinforcement or isolation that make the child realize the effects of their actions.[7]

            In conclusion, there are many recent studies that document the negative factors of corporal punishment. This form of punishment not only harms its victims but society as a whole. Corporal punishment is clearly irrational and should be substituted by more meaningful punishments.

End Notes

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