Corporal Punishment Essay, Research Paper
The term corporal punishment means the intentional infliction of pain on the body for purposes of punishment and includes slapping, hitting with objects, pinching, shaking and forcing to stand for long periods of time (Epoch 1). Family researchers define corporal punishment as ” the use of physical force aimed at causing children to experience pain but not injury, for the purposes of correction and control of youthful behavior” (Day 83). The term “spanking” is a form of physical or corporal punishment (Epoch 1).
The general acceptance, and sometimes support, of corporal punishment as a method of discipline is an aspect of the American culture (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin 61). Children are abused, in part, because they are unable to defend themselves against stronger and more powerful adults (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin 61). Researchers only recently have recognized that spanking is used primarily with young children and that the incidence and severity of spanking often diminishes by the time children are 8-10 years of age (Day 80).
Studies of the incidence and intensity of spanking often provide evidence that most parents have spanked their children. About 90% of parents in the United States report having spanked their children (Day 80).
In a research project done using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, researchers examined the antecedents of parents’ spanking behavior. This study represents an important step forward in understanding the profile of parents who spank their children. Even though the study had little theoretical orientation from which spanking could be predicted, it showed that younger mothers spank much more frequently than older mothers; that younger children are spanked more than older children, and that higher levels of socioeconomic status are associated with the decreases in spanking. It also showed that mothers with lower education, mothers living in the south and mothers who are African American reported increased levels of corporal punishment; and that mothers reporting higher levels of religiosity also spanked more (Day 80).
Consistent use of corporal punishment has been an indicator of less effective parenting and is commonly linked to socialization out comes such as delinquency, low self-esteem, and social incompetence (Day 81).
The child’s temperament and personality directly affect the parents ability to employ non physical discipline strategies. Consequently, children who are perceived as difficult are more likely to be spanked than those who are not perceived as difficult (Day 81).
Older parents who have more education will have more experience raising children, will know more about alternative and nonpunitive strategies of discipline, and will have a greater sense of personal maturity and self-control, all of which may reduce inclinations to spank (Day 81).
There is a widely held tradition in western civilization that “sparing the rod spoils the child” (Day 81). Spanking is deeply rooted in the history and culture of our nation as well as in our own personal experiences. Some people point to the Bible as supporting, even requiring, physical punishment. Those who subscribe to this argument misunderstand and misuse scripture (Epoch 3).
When parents are working and are not on public assistance, they have a greater ability to provide necessities and extras for their children. Economic independence may lead to a greater sense of personal worth. This higher self-worth should convert into more competent parenting, an important link to non-punitive discipline (Day 82).
Single mothers have been characterized as “understaffed” and as having difficulty juggling the demands of household, children, and work. When these strains exist, discipline strategies may reflect a more pressured situation. Even controlling for the age of the mother, the pressurized climate of living as a single parent will increase the amount of reported spanking (Day 82).
Fathers generally spank less than the mothers. Fathers, even when their children are young, are less likely to spank. Younger children tend to receive the most frequent spankings. This suggests that this period of the child’s life may be difficult for mothers (Day 87).
The study also indicated that boys are spanked more frequently than girls. The effects of the gender of the child becomes more accentuated as the child gets older. Mothers and fathers are less likely to spank older children. Fathers rarely spank older girls. Older boys, if they are spanked at all, are probably spanked by their mothers (Day 87).
Within the groups of women (black or white, married or single) the black, single mothers report the most spanking and black, married women with older children report more spanking than white women, but less spanking than single, black mothers (Day 81). The black, single women are younger, which may account for some of this difference, and are much more likely to espouse religious conservatism, which is often an important contribution to increased frequencies of spanking. Single women (black or white) with younger children report significantly higher depression scores than similarly aged married women (Day 87).
It is clear from the study that the wide variations in the incidence of spanking and extensive differences in its intensity are certainly prevalent. Data matched results from previous research and indicated that toddlers and younger children are more likely to be spanked that older children. Such findings suggest that spanking is a common occurrence for only a limited time during the parent- child relationship (Day91-92).
Fathers are often cast in less direct parenting roles that are supposed to be supportive of mothers’ effort but are less involved in the daily administration of discipline (Day 92).
Mothers of younger children seemed to spank because of ideology. Early in the child’s life, a mother may spank because she believes it is a moral obligation (Day 92).
Both black and white mothers of younger children are significantly influenced by the parent-child context, however, only black, married mothers with younger children are influenced by economic conditions (Day 93).
The general pattern of these results illustrate that the roots of parental spanking may be complicated by many factors, including the gender of the child, the age of the child, the gender of the parent, and the age of the parent (Day 93).
Also, parent’s inclinations to spank may be embedded in conservative religious beliefs and the parent’s own perceptions of characteristics of their children that have developed during the parent-child relationship (Day 93).
Little work has been done to understand parents’ discipline strategies in many ethnic and racial groups in our society. Motivations for spanking are complex and embedded in the ideological and family system fabric of daily life and should become a significant area of research (Day 93).
Experts point to several specific problems with spanking. For some, there is an inherent contradiction between the ideal of the loving parent and the purposeful violence of corporal punishment. In addition, corporal punishment can and often does become abuse when parents are especially angry or stressed (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin 292).
Finally, we need to know more about the personal resources of parents that can lessen the incidence of spanking. It is found that spanking sharply decreases as the parent ages. Despite ideological motivations, parents can and should be trained to understand alternative strategies of discipline (Day 93).
Barnett, Ola, & Miller-Perrin, Cindy & Perrin, Robin., Family Violence Across the
Lifespan. California: Sage, 1997
Day, Randal., “Predicting Spanking of Younger and Older Children by their Mothers
and Fathers.” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (February 1998): 79-94
National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment and EPOCH_USA., 3 February