The use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary action against children has been of great controversy over the years. This controversy does not just exist within the United States however, but in several countries. The pros and cons, as well as its effectiveness differ greatly depending on the culture in question. For example, Americans use corporal punishment (spanking, hitting, yelling, etc.) more than any other industrialized nation as a normal part of child rearing. The use of this type of punishment is even protected and supported by American law with all fifty states recognizing some form of privilege for parents/guardians rights to hit children in their custody (Pollard, 2003).
The number one reason for the acceptance of corporal punishment among American is believed to be their religious ties, with the Bible encouraging the use of the rod to enforce acceptable behavior. Persons who identify themselves as politically conservative are more prone to approve of corporal punishment compared to their moderate and liberal counterparts (Ellison & Bradshaw, 2009).
Despite this, only a total of twenty-one states allow the use of corporal punishment within their school systems, with the south favoring more than the northern states.
In India, however, the Delhi High Court has ruled that the use of corporal punishment against children is inhumane and detrimental to the dignity of a child. Furthermore, it was stated that children should not be subjected to corporal punishment and should remain in an environment of freedom, dignity, and free of fear. China has agreed to these same rights, stating that corporal punishment will not be imposed on children, nor will acts of insult on human dignity (Rajdev, 2012).
The use of corporal punishment within Africa is still a matter of debate, with some sectors of society reacting positively to the ban of corporal punishment on children and others expressing concerns that there is no alternative measure of punishment. In the United Kingdom, the use of corporal punishment was banned among state and private schools but allowed within public schools. However, data collected in 2000 showed that over half the parents surveyed would like to see corporal punishment returned, again with the argument that there is no other effective measure of punishment (Rajdev, 2012).
As seen, the controversy regarding corporal punishment is astonishing. The one question that tends to repeat regardless of culture is, “is corporal punishment effective?” What are the pros and cons of its use? On one side, it has been argued that the number one benefit to corporal punishment is that of intimidation. For example, a paddle hanging in a principal’s office can provide many students with enough of an incentive to behavior in class. It is also believed that children should be held accountable for their actions and behaviors and not allowed to impact other children negatively. Holding a child accountable for their actions encourages them to behavior in an acceptable manner and is believed to create well behaved and responsible adults (Wilson, 2013).
However, the counterpart to this argument states that corporal punishment has several negative consequences on children, both short-term and long-term. Studies have linked the practice of corporal punishment to a host of developmental difficulties, including aggression and antisocial behavior, as well as psychological distress. The long-term consequences include delinquency, substance abuse, impaired socioeconomic attainment, and tendencies towards violence as adults (Flynn, 1994). With all this information in mind, it is clear to see that there are still many unanswered questions regarding the use of corporal punishment against children, as well as questions concerning its effectiveness from culture to culture. For example, does the existence of distinctive religious rationale for corporal punishment imply distinctive practices, such as the administration of discipline? Do distinctive patterns of use have various effects on the child’s outcomes? Even though many school systems have been under controversy on whether the use of corporal punishment should be allowed within the school system, why has the topic of home life and the use of corporal punishment not been addressed to the same existent? Finally, can the negative effects seen in studies be affected or changed depending on the warmth and responsiveness of parents in other situations?