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The purpose of this argument is to determine whether corporal punishment is beneficial to children and their development. We have all experienced some form of corporal punishment whether from our parents or from our teachers in school. To majority of societies around the world, corporal punishment is the norm rather than the exception.
For example communities in Spain do not see corporal punishment as something strange while most African societies view corporal punishment as a way of rectifying a child’s behavior. However most westernized countries view this form of punishment as barbaric and detrimental to the child’s overall development.
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN par. 1) defines corporal punishment as the infliction of physical pain which is intentional with the aim of changing behavior. Corporal punishment is also defined as the use of physical force to cause pain to the recipient as a way of punishing their misbehavior.
The main component of corporal punishment is the use of physical violence to correct the child’s behavior. Corporal punishment might take the form of spanking, slapping, hitting, pinching or shaking. To differentiate between corporal punishment and physical abuse, two factors have to be taken into consideration which is the intensity of the punishment and the intention of meting out corporal punishment.
The intensity of the punishment refers to whether the recipient has incurred any extensive injuries as a result of the physical punishment. The intention of the punishment refers to whether it has been directed to teach or discipline the recipient (Vieccelli and Ricas 2).
History of Corporal Punishment
The history of corporal punishment is viewed to be as old as human civilization. It can be traced back to the Middle Ages when children or adults caught in misconduct were disciplined by physical violence. In Middle Age England, the most common form of punishment was flogging which involved whopping or whipping the offender with a rod or whip.
This type of punishment was however abolished and banished in 1874 (Baxamusa par.2). In the U.S. parents were seen to be the most common users of corporal punishment with spanking being their most common tool of punishment.
Teachers were also seen to use corporal punishment in the early 80s when dealing with misbehavior in students by caning, pinching or slapping (Child discipline par.1). It was also acceptable for teachers and school authorities to whip or spank children as a form of disciplinary action (Baxamusa par.3).
Some states in America have banned corporal punishment by enacting laws that prohibit teachers from physically disciplining children. According to 2006-2007 U.S. statistics, 223,190 school going children were subjected to form of corporal punishment in the course of their studies.
This is an indication that the use of corporal punishment in schools has decreased by 18 percent when compared to the 1980s. While many states have created laws to prohibit corporal punishment, other states have legalized it as a form of disciplinary action (Baxamusa par. 10).
Benefits of Corporal Punishment
Many scholars and academics have viewed corporal punishment to be a negative form of discipline as it affects the child’s or student’s behavior. According to Save the Children’s awareness campaign on corporal punishment, children who have been subjected to corporal punishment experience a low self esteem, feelings of sadness and anger as well as feelings of loneliness and abandonment.
Their social skills within and outside the school are also affected as they are afraid to communicate what they want (Richardson et al 126). Corporal punishment has also been viewed to increase fear of reprisals creating educational barriers that lead to poor performance in school.
Children who have undergone punishment also have a negative view of their school and also of the society making it difficult for them to integrate into their community. Physical punishment also discourages reasoning by affecting the child’s reasoning capabilities (Save the Children 2).
Gershoff (539) in her studies on corporal punishment has noted that this form of punishment has played an integral role in how parents discipline their children. This form of punishment has been the main focus of psychological research in the United States with various researchers and academics providing contributions on whether corporal punishment is beneficial or detrimental to the child’s development.
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Despite various countries adopting measures to prohibit the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline, support for using corporal punishment in the U.S. has remained strong with 94 percent of parents and school teachers supporting the use of physical violence to discipline errant children (Gershoff 539).
While there have been many negative effects of corporal punishment, there are scholars who have advocated for the use of corporal punishment in dealing with discipline cases.
Child psychologists who advocate for the use of corporal punishment have noted that it is advantageous in that it is the only form of language that children will understand and react to. This is especially so with children who have been identified to be problematic and reckless.
Rather than pamper and spoil these types of children, psychologists have seen corporal discipline as a means of preventing children with poor conduct or behavior from degenerating even further to reckless behavior. To further explain the term “spare the rod or spoil the child” various advantages of using corporal punishment have been advocated for when compared to using non physical forms of punishment (Victor par.2).
For example corporal punishment deters repeat cases of misconduct and misbehavior. Children who are physically punished for doing something wrong are most likely to not repeat the offence in future. This can also be attributed to the instantaneous effect physical punishment has on children caught in reckless behavior.
The use of corporal punishment has also been seen to restrain children from engaging in reckless behavior with respect to historical statistics which have shown that children behave well after they have been subjected to corporal disciplinary action (Turner 217).
Benatar (par.46) came up with positive arguments for carrying out corporal punishment on children one of which was that it was used to discipline children who were found to be guilty of misconduct. Only the guilty offenders identified to have committed misconduct faced disciplinary action regardless of whether there were other participants in the misconduct case or not.
He also noted corporal punishment played a significant role in the scale of punishments used in school contexts (Benatar Par. 50).
Corporal punishment filled the gap that was created when other forms of punishment were used such as detention, suspension or expulsion. Another benefit of corporal punishment is that when used in the proper context, it initiates a change in behavior as the recipient will be deterred from misbehaving in future (Benatar par. 52).
Victor (par.2) argues that the use of corporal punishment is particularly beneficial for children who are irrational, impulsive and need some firmness. He noted that children’s impulsive nature needed to be controlled through tougher methods of punishment such as corporal discipline. He advocates for the sustained use of physical force on children with regards to the level of misconduct they have engaged in.
Benatar (Par. 53) advocates for the use of corporal punishment as long as the enforcers of the punishment exercise just corporal punishment. This can be achieved by inflicting pain to the children in an infrequent manner and also ensure that the punishment is meted out in a non discriminative way so as to ensure there is no racial or gender bias.
Corporal punishment should also observe due process and timing so that it can be justified. Due process will entail punishing the guilty parties while timing refers to whether the punishment will take place before or after the wrongdoing (Benatar par. 55, 56)
Corporal punishment does not necessarily have to be viewed as a negative form of punishment. Through the use of appropriate restrictions, it can be used to discipline children who have been found to misbehave or have engaged in misconduct.
Despite the many protagonists who have argued about the disadvantages of corporal punishment, this form of discipline can prove to be beneficial when dealing with cases of misbehavior, truancy or misconduct amongst school going children.
Corporal punishment is an effective method of deterring detrimental behaviors in children who are still developing. It eliminates cases of repeat misconduct or misbehavior in children who have not responded to the other forms of punishment such as detention, suspension, reprimanding or expulsion.
Baxamusa, B. History of corporal punishment. Web.
Benatar, D. Corporal punishment, 2001. Web.
Child D. Pro corporal punishment. Web.
Gershoff, E. Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviours and experiences: a meta-analysis and theoretical review, Psychological Bulletin, 128(4), pp.539-579, 2002.
National Association of School Nurses (NASN), Corporal punishment in schools, 2002. Web.
Richardson, T., Marsha, W., Bruce, A., and Daniel A. Child abuse and violence, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2008.
Save the Children, Awareness campaign against corporal punishment of children in families. Web.
Turner, Susan M., Something to cry about: an argument against corporal punishment of children, Ontario, Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2002. Print.
Victor, D. Corporal punishment-child abuse or discipline? 2007. Web.
Vieccelli, M., and Janete, R., Parent’s perspective on child rearing and corporal punishment, 2008. Web.