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Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline Term Paper


Corporal punishment is the use of pain inflicting measures as a corrective tool in children’s behaviour. There are various methods associated with administering corporal punishment on children which may include caning on the palms and the back, pulling ears, pinching on the nose, slapping on the cheeks among others. Corporal punishment has been applied in schools by teachers, at the family level by parents, and at the society level.

The use of corporal punishment on children is highly encouraged in some cultures especially in the African context, where most communities believe that it is an inevitable component in early childhood development. Empirical research carried out in different contexts has shown pros and cons of corporal punishment.

Literature Review

A research conducted in Kenya in 2010 duped ‘why are Kenyan teachers using corporal punishment eight years after ban of corporal punishment,’ found out that corporal punishment is still prevalent as a disciplinary measure among primary school teachers even after its abolishment back in 2001.

The main objective of the study which employed both qualitative and quantitative research techniques was to establish the reason why corporal punishment was still mentioned in schools even after its ban by the Kenyan government under the children act of 2001, the research which was carried out among primary school teachers pursuing a degree course in a particular university in Kenya.

A representative sample of teachers in across the ages and cultural was selected.

The research established that corporal punishment was a dominant disciplinary tool among primary school teachers even in the wake of the Children act of 2001. It was found out all the teachers included in the investigation had full knowledge of the legislation and the implications of non-compliance.

Despite the knowledge and Kenya being signatory of United Nations convention on children rights, corporal punishment still prevail. United Nations organization introduced a campaign in 1990 seeking to eradicate corporal punishment on children terming it as violence against and having more long-term detrimental effects on children development. It may lead to emotional and psychological problems in future (Grogan 287).

The teachers admitted that they all practised corporal punishment on pupils in school even with the children act of 2001 still in force. They argued that after the government abolished corporal punishment back in 2001, cases of indiscipline had increased exponentially; riots and strikes among the pupils had increased significantly. They attributed this to the withdrawal of corporal punishments from schools.

They postulated corporal punishment as a key player in the modelling of the pupil’s behaviour, as they put across that such cases of indiscipline were unreported in the previous years. They also argued that the governments silence on the issue since the legislation was enacted indicated its response to the increased indiscipline cases.

It was held categorically by the teachers that discipline which is as they argued was mostly cultivated among the pupils through corporal punishment, had a strong positive correlation with the pupils’ academic and general performance in the schools. They attributed the general decline in performance, the increased rate of school drop out s to the withdrawal of corporal punishment from schools.

The teachers also cited scriptures from religious books including the bible. They believed that a child raised up without the cane did not develop up to the desired morals in the society; according to them some of important aspects in a child’s behaviour in early development could only be imparted by use of corporal punishment.

All the teachers interviewed supported corporal punishment as being more effective than non-corporal methods of punishment such as time-out. They argued that corporal punishment delivered immediate and timely results on rectification of pupil’s behaviour. They were of the opinion that pupils associated misbehaviour with the pain inflicted by corporal punishment.

This forced them to comply with the rules and regulations. The pupils seemed to be intimidated by the consequences of their misconduct.

The reprimand they expected after misbehaving shaped with immediate effect their conduct. The teachers however noted that corporal punishment methods should not include forms of physical abuse like biting and shaking, it should be done moderately in a corrective and caring manner (Gershoff 1).

Corporal punishment has also been prevalent among parents. Spanking of children is a common practise by most parents. Despite its disapproval and controversy in the public eye, corporal punishment is still propagated in the behavioural modification of children by their parents.

It seems to have a positive impact on the acquired behavioural characteristics of children as children from families where the parents were very strict and critical on them seem to eventually develop into well behaved responsible adults in future. Parents however should always maintain emotional stability and should never be carried away by emotions while disciplining their children.

Scientific and empirical research c coupled with literature review indicate the importance and applicability of both corporal and non-corporal approaches of punishment on imposing positive moral values of early child development. In a case where a couple brought their defiant and aggressive child to a corrective centre, the parents expressed varied attitudes towards corporal punishment.

The mother argued to have been brought up in a family where corporal punishment was very severe. She had been brought up with a lot of physical abuse like beating and biting. She swore never to inflict such physical pain on her children.

The father had also been raised in a very strict family where corporal punishment was very pronounced. However the he had taken it positively as having imparted the good moral values he possessed up to date. The couple had varied opinion on corporal punishment, with the mother viewing it as unacceptable and inflicting physical, emotional and psychological damage on the child’s behaviour.

The father supported corporal punishment as imparting positive moral values. There was a conflict in the best corrective measures to apply on their child. The therapist advised the couple on the importance of both methods of punishment and a good blend of both was imperative in the child’s development (Telep 1).

The therapist clearly put across that both methods were inevitable in a child’s development.

He argued that Corporal measures were good for short term behaviour rectification while long term characteristics were acquired mainly by application of non-corporal means of punishment like time-outs; the parents could also apply reinforcing measures on good conducts through rewarding good behaviours and discouraging bad behaviours by not rewarding them.

The use of corporal punishment has both long term and short term detrimental effects. Short term effects include physical injuries. Long term effects include depression; it is also associated with a sense of low self-esteem.


Corporal and non-corporal means of punishment are essential for imparting proper behavioural characteristics in child development. Corporal punishment applied in the right manner that is moderated and given in a caring way is morally acceptable. Religion, a major player in imparting morals in individuals advocates for use of corporal punishment.

Religious leaders are looked up to by many children, who want them to be their role models. The religious books including the bible and the Quran include a cardinal rule of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child. Religious leaders are reckoned for good morals in the society. Many people usually emulate them; hence they end up embracing corporal punishment.

Children usually develop a conditioned reflex action towards corporal punishment and misconduct, the repeated conditioned response overtime lead to acquired characteristics which when practised through time they become habitual hence a trait comes up, hence a good conduct is acquired eventually. Children at their early ages are easy to manipulate, they usually grasp what they are taught very easily.

The pain usually inflicted on them through corporal punishment is hard to bear and forget, hence they attribute misconduct to pain and there they avoid such behaviours which will eventually lead to painful correction (Bernata 20).

However, corporal punishment is only effective on short term behavioural modification.

Scientific studies, empirical research and literature review have proved that corporal punishment on children as a tool for changing behaviour is only effective on short term basis, the study carried out in Kenya clearly supports this view, the short behavioural modification was not really a complete behaviour change as the pupils returned to their old ways immediately on the withdraw of corporal punishment.

The studies have proved that in the long run the children will shun the morals imparted on them through corporal punishment as they consider them acquired by means of unmentionable patronage. It is not uncommon for children after attaining puberty or in the teenage to completely change the way they behave. They usually become arrogant and especially to parents who have been too strict on them.

The short term behavioural chance is associated with the fear of pain rather than being internalised and coming from an intrinsic source. This is why children will hide away from their parents to go and do things which they know that they do not approve of as they know the penalty which will be inflicted on them. Scientific research on non-corporal means of punishment has shown its usefulness in long term behaviour change.

Methods of non-corporal punishment which may include withholding some privileges and negative reinforcement of undesirable behaviours like not rewarding misbehaving children and rewarding pupils with good conduct have proved to have lasting impacts on behavioural modifications of children in their early development.


Both corporal and non-corporal and non-corporal measures should be applied on children to ensure both short term corrective means and long term behavioural modification. Parents should also consider striking a balance between punishments and reinforcing measures like rewarding.

Healthy emotional, psychological and mental development entails a regulated behavioural modification by punishments involving both corporal and non-corporal measures and reinforcing means.

Many researchers in the psychological field have advanced behavioural theories which have shown a great positive correlation in behaviour modification and punishment (involving a good blend between corporal and non-corporal methods) in early childhood development.

Works Cited

Bernata, David. “Corporal punishment”. Social theory and practice. 24.2 (1998): 13 – 25. Print.

Gershoff, Elizabeth. “American psychological association. (2002). Web.

Grogan, Kaylor. “Corporal punishment and the growth trajectory of children’s antisocial behavior”. Child Maltreatment. 10.3 (2005): 283–292. Print.

Telep, Valya. “”. Child development: Virginia state university. (2009). Web.

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"Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline." IvyPanda, 26 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/use-of-corporal-punishment-in-children-discipline/.

1. IvyPanda. "Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline." May 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/use-of-corporal-punishment-in-children-discipline/.


IvyPanda. "Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline." May 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/use-of-corporal-punishment-in-children-discipline/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline." May 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/use-of-corporal-punishment-in-children-discipline/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Use of Corporal Punishment in Children Discipline'. 26 May.

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