How Corporal Punishment Affects Children

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Corporal punishment towards children has been a controversial topic for many years. It’s the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury for the purpose of correction or control of the child’s behavior (Straus & Kantor 1994). This common form of punishment tends to lead to mental health issues for the children in the long-run, as well as negative child adjustment behaviors, such as bullying.

The main focus of this literature review is to showcase the negative effects corporal punishment has on children. This research also seeks to answer the question, is corporal punishment an effective means of discipline? In this day in age, many parents still continue to resort to corporal punishment as a means to control their kid’s behavior. Even though it does more damage than good. It’s also got a negative stigma to it, and for good reason. Shedding light on the negative effects this popular form of punishment has on growing children, will help minimize the use of this punishment. And in turn, help form stronger and healthier relationships between parents and children. Along with helping the kids have a healthier development and upbringing, free of any unnecessary harm. However, it’s become apparent that there’s a lack of positive approaches on how to effectively discipline a child found in research journals in the psychology field. There’s no shortage of articles backing up the negative effects and outcomes of corporal punishment, but little to none solutions.

Reasoning Behind Corporal Punishment

Most parents resort to corporal punishment in an effort to deter their child from doing a negative behavior or action in the future again. Although there has been a decline in the use of corporal punishment, about 55% of parents still continue to use it (Piché, Huynh, Clément, Durrant, 2017). Despite the negative stigma associated with it.

There’s many reasons as to why a parent might use physical punishment. For some, the use of corporal punishment stems from a deep personal level. They may base it off their own childhood, because that’s how they were brought up. Which results in them thinking it works, and don’t view it as a negative action. In other cases, whenever corporal punishment is used, it comes from a place of anger and frustration from the parent. Meaning they’re acting off of emotion rather than logic. Another cause for the use of this form of punishment, is that they don’t want to be too soft on the kid and end up raising a spoiled child.

Negative Effects

There’s an outrageous amount of studies which prove that in most cases, there is a strong link between corporal punishment and negative behavior and emotions in children and adolescents. Which leads many to associate corporal punishment with a negative connotation. The cons seem to outweigh the pros when it comes to this type of punishment.

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When a parent uses this common form of punishment on their child, it normalizes aggression and violence in the child’s eye. Through longitudinal studies done by Turns and Sibley (2018), a link between spanking at a young age led to the child participating in bullying behaviors later on in life. Proving that aggressive behavior in children could be developed from experiencing corporal behavior, though not always. There are other factors that could make a child bully others. However, physical punishment could contribute to it.

Not only can corporal punishment have an impact on the way children interact with others, but it can also take a toll on their mental health. Conditions such as anxiety and antisocial behavior are regularly seen in those who experienced corporal punishment during childhood (Zulauf, Sokolovsky, Grabell & Olson, 2018). Another seemingly obvious outcome of corporal punishment, is kids may develop fear towards their parents. Which can turn to resentment and hate over time as the kid grows older. Creating a strain on the parent-child relationship.

Effectiveness of Corporal Punishment

Although parental discipline is fundamental to the psychological development of a child, there’s been extensive research done that demonstrates corporal punishment is not considered discipline. Examples of parental discipline consist of guidance and support, among other methods. Physical punishment just places the child’s development at risk. This fairly common form of punishment is often associated with short-term obedience, and long term psychosocial adjustment problems for the child (Lapré & Marsee, 2016).

Through extensive research, it’s safe to say that corporal punishment is not an effective form of punishment. Since recent research continues to support that spanking and other forms of corporal punishment does not lead to positive outcomes for children, and can be potentially detrimental in several different development facets (Turns & Sibley, 2018). It has no beneficial outcome for the child, they’re just left hurt without having learned how to be better long term. When disciplining a child, it’s important to choose an adequate form of punishment. It’s illogical to resort to aggression when the child misbehaves.

Positive Discipline

There are a plethora of other techniques that can be used to calmly and lovingly communicate lessons and clear boundaries on a child’s behavior, that won’t be harmful to their development and lead to positive outcomes. Such methods can include time-outs, taking away certain privileges, and rewarding good behavior.


To address the research question, I would use longitudinal research. For the most accurate results, I would use current toddlers, age 5, and follow up with them until they were 15. Since that’s usually about the age most teenagers experience high emotions and begin to act out of rebellion. To chose the participants, I would choose 15-20 kids that come from homes where the parents believe in corporal punishment. I would follow up with the kids once a year for a set of questions for both the kids and their parents to analyze how the children’s psychological development is going along.

To begin the ten year long research, I would first seek willing families that would want to participate, that have a five year old toddler. The requirements would be as follows: the parents would have to believe in corporal punishment and the kids would have to be checked and cleared for any pre-existing behavioral issues. I would begin the first follow up visit a year after meeting the families and toddlers. During every yearly follow up visit, I would have a set of questions for the kids and parents that will help me determine and analyze how the kids are doing mentally and emotionally. These sets of questions would help me identify any negative effects the child may have developed from corporal punishment. Once the children have reached age 15, I will be able to make an analisys on every child to determine if corporal punishment had a negative effect on them.

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