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Why Corporal Punishment Is WrongResearch Paper

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Corporal punishment, the use of spankings and other mild forms of physical aggression in response to behavioral issues in children, is as old as parenting itself. While severe physical aggression is a clear-cut case of abuse, corporal punishment occupies an ethical grey area in parenting. On the one hand, most Americans seem to favor the use of corporal punishment with most parents either condoning or using spankings and similar methods to discipline their children. On the other hand, some research seems to suggest that corporal punishment can cause detrimental psychological outcomes in children and can too easily become a pattern of abusive behavior. Many psychologists also believe that corporal punishment is less effective than other types of disciplinary action. Even if corporal punishment causes "minimal" problems in children, it would seem sensible to cease the practice in order to develop more effective means of discipline (Ferguson). Corporal punishment might not be actual child abuse, but it is nevertheless a method that is relatively ineffective, lazy, and potentially harmful to children.

Americans will have a hard time giving up their right to spank children, given that the majority of parents in the United States either use corporal punishment or support its use. Demby notes that as many as eight out of every ten Americans favor corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children (Demby 1). Those numbers may be even higher among certain population groups, particularly the most conservative religious Americans like fundamentalist Christians (Gershof, Purtell and Holas). For this reason, corporal punishment has not been outlawed as it has in as many as 34 other countries (Jones). The fact that corporal punishment has been made illegal in public schools in America, and the fact that dozens of other developed nations ban the practice, it would seem that Americans are culturally backwards when it comes to this form of parenting. In fact, many American parents use corporal punishment for "minor transgressions" and "mundane reasons," and not just as a last resort (Nicholson 1). It would seem that corporal punishment has become a form of lazy parenting that allows Americans to avoid the more challenging work of using systematic verbal rewards and punishments in order to encourage positive and pro-social behaviors in their children.

Corporal punishment is not something that can be considered evidence-based parenting practice. In fact, the opposite is true. Scientific evidence has in fact consistently shown that corporal punishment can be detrimental to the child's psychological growth and development and may even leave long-lasting repercussions (Samakow). Some potentially detrimental effects of corporal punishment include increased anxiety sensitivity in children (Graham and Weems 886). Anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior, anger management issues, and substance abuse problems in adulthood have been correlated with corporal punishment in childhood (Reeves and Cuddy). Reeves and Cuddy also point out that children who were spanked are more likely to be abusive in their own lives, either to their own children or to their domestic partners. Ferguson reports that corporal punishment can lead to small but significant detrimental effects on children's cognitive processing facilities, too, with potentially adverse outcomes on performance and productivity later in life. Test scores have highlighted the measurable cognitive effects of corporal punishment on children, with lower vocabulary and math learning skills reported for children who were systematically and routinely spanked in the home (Reeves and Cuddy).

Because many parents use corporal punishment more than they admit, with experiments showing that when monitored, parents use spanking far more frequently than their self-reports indicate, the practice would appear to be a serious public health issue (Holden et al.). If parents are underreporting their own use of corporal punishment, it may indicate a deep and underlying sense of embarrassment and shame, perhaps arising from the knowledge that spanking children is inherently poor parenting practice. Instead of changing their behaviors, though, parents in the United States remain committed to corporal punishment as a valid practice. Some refer to the Bible to support their use of punishment; while others claim that they were spanked and turned out "just fine," and therefore corporal punishment cannot be all that bad (Jones 1). The fallacies in modes of thinking that support corporal punishment are clear, though. Being "just fine" does not mean thriving or excelling; and the Bible is a… [END OF PREVIEW]

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