Opinions on Debatable Issues #24
According to VeryWellFamily, corporal punishment encompasses all types of physical punishment, including “spanking, slapping, pinching, pulling, twisting, and hitting with an object.” Many think that corporal punishments are illegal in the US. Nevertheless, the US federal law legalizes corporal punishments in public schools and homes, though state laws vary on what types of physical punishments are allowed. In 2016, school corporal punishment was legal in 19 states, and over 160,000 children in these states were subject to corporal punishment in schools each year, according to NCBI. Here are some reasons that this aversive approach should be illegalized for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
Firstly, corporal punishments unignorable detrimental impacts on children. In the study Parenting Style and Punishment Perception as Moderators of the Association between Corporal Punishment and Anxiety in Children published in ResearchGate, researchers found that corporal punishment has been linked with the poor psychological development of children and adolescents. Also, because authoritarian parenting usually goes hand in hand with heavy and frequent corporal punishment, children under these two conditions were found to be generally more anxious than others, which can cause serious implications in their education, career, and future lives.
Furthermore, psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff of the National Center for Children in Poverty conducted a large-scale meta-analysis of 88 studies of data collected in 62 years. She found that “the more often or more harshly a child was hit, the more likely they are to be aggressive or to have mental health problems.” By modeling aggressive behaviors, corporal punishments teach children to solve problems with violence. This creates a vicious cycle of making future generations parents that use corporal punishments instead of reasoning to educate their children, contributing to higher violence and even crime rate in the society. In fact, according to Britannica, the common understanding that corporal punishment is an especially effective deterrent has been refuted by empirical evidence. According to Gershoff’s study Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children, physical punishment is associated with increases in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children.
In addition, corporal Punishments can only deter children or evoke fear to prevent certain behaviors temporarily. But it does not teach children right from wrong. As a result, the children do not understand the moral and reason behind their actions, so when parents or teachers are not present to administer the punishment, children will likely misbehave. Not only do corporal punishments work temporarily, but they also lose their short-term effects as children get used to the spanks. In Gershoff’s study Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children, he found that children are no longer deterred by the punishment after some time. That means either the parents should impose harsher punishments to keep the deterrence there or fail to make the child listen to them.
Not just kids, parents do not benefit from this violent encounter with their children. A longitudinal study done in 2012 and published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology found that “depressive symptoms for both mothers and fathers were related to more negative appraisals of the child’s behavior and more frequent corporal punishment.” That means corporal punishments are associated with distressed and depressed parents.
Often, students get punished for minor offenses that do not justify corporal punishments. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, in the 2013-2014 school year, 37% of cases of corporal punishments were for bus misbehavior, disrespect of staff, cell phone use, inappropriate language, and other misbehaviors. Those things are very common. We can all relate to those things like discretely using phones. Besides, according to the Human Rights Watch & the ACLU, “Children have been corporally punished in school for being late to class, failing to turn in homework, violating dress codes, running in the hallway, laughing in the hallway, sleeping in class, talking back to teachers, going to the bathroom without permission, mispronouncing words, and receiving bad grades”. These are not serious misconducts that need to be corrected by physical punishments. Some of them, such as bad grades, are not entirely the students’ fault and cannot be fixed with corporal punishments.
Besides, corporal punishments are prone to exacerbate racial disparities. American Americans are vulnerable to harsher and more frequent punishments. The 2018 study done by Elizabeth T. Gershoff and Sarah A. Font across the US found that “Black children in Alabama and Mississippi are at least 51% more likely to be corporally punished than white children in over half of school districts, while in one-fifth of both states’ districts, Black children are over 5 times (500%) more likely to be corporally punished.” This disparity cannot be explained by the argument that Black students go to schools that use more corporal punishments because the evidence suggests otherwise. Despite that white students are 2-7 times more likely than black students to go to a school that practices corporal punishments, Black students are more likely to suffer from the punishments.
Now you might ask: “What can we do if corporal punishment is no longer an option?” Well, better alternatives are available. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Harvard Medical School Health Publishing, parents and teachers can utilize positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, clear limit setting, consistent disciplining, and realistic future expectations to educate children of right and wrong. Those kinds of loving and proactive approaches not only are effective and not harmful for children’s mental health but also maintain a peaceful and amicable family relationship.
To sum up, corporal punishments are temporary solutions that parents and teachers use when they cannot come up with a quick and effective way to discipline children. They scare children instead of effectively teaching them the moralities that should be guiding the right behaviors. This aversive approach not only is not sustainable in the long run but also is detrimental to children’s emotional and mental developments. Parents and schools should turn to more “mature” ways when trying to discipline a two-year-old toddler or a 17-year-old teen going through puberty.
- DOI: 10.20533/ijcdse.2042.6364.2014.0284
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