Corporal Punishment Term Paper

Free term paper on Corporal Punishment:
Corporal Punishment is defined as the intentional infliction of punishment on the body (Benatar, 2001). History shows corporal punishment dates back to the earliest known laws. Notorious in the 1700’s as B.C., Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi, which detailed a variety of severe physical punishment for crimes. By the mid 1900’s, most nations had enacted laws against corporal punishment (World Book, 2003). Most American children experience being spanked, which is the most commonly used form of corporal punishment and is one of the most contentious parenting practices.

However, there has not been extensive research to indicate substantially what the positive or negative effects have been on these children (Science News, 2002). How we define the terms of corporal punishment becomes the most controversial subject today among educators, doctors, psychologists, and organizations that support the human rights of a child. Corporal punishment differentiates from capital punishment. Yet, the terms are so broad and range from one extreme of mild spanking to the other extreme of being put to death that the term corporal punishment in itself needs to be re-defined. The focus of this research will be narrowed to the milder form of corporal punishment, otherwise known as spanking. A primary area of controversy with corporal punishment is the infliction of pain without injury (Benatar, 2001). Spanking, hitting, swatting, caning, beating and flogging to name just a few are forms of corporal punishment. In most forms, it is administered primarily by an adult usually in a home or school environment, which are punishments given for offenses that are deemed morally wrong. Corporal Punishment is an aggressive behavior that teaches children that aggression is acceptable (Thomas, 2002). Elizabeth Gershoff, a Developmental Psychologist with Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty, has done the most comprehensive research on spanking. Gershoff’s research analyzed more than 80 studies on spanking spanning over 60 years Gershoff states, “The more children are spanked the more likely they are to be aggressive, delinquent, defiant, and to have mental health issues in the future”. The only fault to this research is the ability to identify how much spanking puts a child at risk.

Gershoff is not without criticism on the research she accomplished. Currently, there is still no evidence provided in her research that shows that corporal punishment implants a sense of right from wrong. In the United States, corporal punishment has been the conventional method of discipline since early colonial times (Andero, Stewart). It is illegal in all 50 states for another adult to physically strike another adult in any manner. In fact, it is considered a crime and is punishable under the law, which does not apply to those under eighteen. In our country, it is legal for parents to hit, strike, or use corporal punishment against their own children. Each state may have a different definition for corporal punishment, which does not meet the criteria to be considered child abuse (Couture, 2001). There are Twenty-seven states that banned corporal punishment in public and private schools, while 23 states are still permitted to practice corporal punishment. A study done in 1996 by the American Academy of Pediatrics comprised of middle-class families questioned 320 two-parent families where at least one parent and child completed a questionnaire with the primary focus being the use of corporal punishment in the home. It is important to note the children were questioned in a separate room where the answers could not be directly influenced by their parent. In this study, 17% of the families did not use corporal punishment while 83% did. Of that, 35% of the participants reported using an object to deliver the punishment (Graziano, Hamblen, Plante, 1996). Most parents believe spanking teaches children important and valuable lessons. Parents also indicated in this study, the major reason for punishing their children is disobedience, and disrespectfulness, which challenged their parental authority. Additionally, they also displayed the attitude that it is a parental right and fact of life (Graziano et al., 1996). The American Academy of pediatrics research suggests that corporal punishment is the least effective form of discipline. Elizabeth Gershoff contends that “the practice of corporal punishment can be traced to the American colonial belief of obedience to parents teaches children obedience to god” (Psychology Today, 2002, p26), which may be why many people believe the adage “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is a biblical endorsement. This adage came from the poem “Hudibras”, written by Samuel Butler in 1664, which does not appear in scripture. When scripture is used in the rearing of children it is very easy for scripture to be misunderstood and misquoted. One such example would be Proverbs 23:13,14 is a commonly cited scripture for support in the use of corporal punishment. It is well known that King Solomon, author of the book of Proverbs, was recorded as a brutal king, who thirsted for violence. Supposedly, the book of proverbs reflects his parenting beliefs.

Solomon’s son Rehoboam became a hated ruler and had to leave to avoid assassination from his own people. Many Christians today believe the “Rod” is a symbolic metaphor for a shepherd’s staff, which was used to lead or guide not to hit. Many of the arguments that are raised in the debate on corporal punishment are the lasting effect on children. Some of the identified arguments raised by people who believe corporal punishment should not be inflicted are, (Benetar, 2001): · Corporal Punishment leads to child abuse · It is degrading and humiliating to a child · It is psychologically damaging · It teaches children the wrong lesson · It causes children to form poor relationships · It does not deter the disobedient behavior. Research into the relations between corporal punishment and child abuse are questionable, so far (Benetar, 2001). Degrading or shaming a child by the use of corporal punishment does lower ones sense of how others may view them, which can also lower a child’s self-esteem, cause depression, and even anxiety.

Corporal punishment has also been found to cause sexual and social problems (Benetar 2001). It is indicative of external control regardless of the intent. It is also misguided and confuses the issues of love and violence. Discipline and punishment have two very different but distinct definitions, except society deems them as one in the same. In fact, discipline is a very important part of Christian life, and is the ability to teach appropriate and acceptable behavior in children. Discipline does not inflict pain or fear in a child. Conversely it does provide harsh punishment does inflict physical pain and is used for power and reprisal. However, discipline provides a child a foundation of love; trust, and mutual respect. A child’s relationship with a parent should never be based on fear, pain and intimidation; instead it should be with tenderness, affection, and fondness. National attention has been brought to the plight of children and their rights. Ten nations have banned any form of corporal punishment. First, in 1979, Sweden protected children against corporal punishment. Sweden banned parents from using corporal punishment in any way on children, but, unfortunately, parents were not prosecuted for corporal punishment under the law (Couture, 2001). There were cases documented in the United States on corporal punishment since the early 1920’s. For instance, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a father was summoned to court because of his son’s unruliness. On July 9, 1927, Judge William H. Smathers advised the father to give his son “a thick and heavy licking” for creating trouble at home, and staying out late. The judge was eager and willing to demonstrate this punishment (New York Times, 1927). Another well-documented incident on March 24, 1925, demonstrates in two separate states, that corporal punishment was the norm for disobedient children. In Philadelphia, two boys were given the sentence of an old-fashioned “woodshed walloping” for taking a motor vehicle which was not their own. The second incident, in Kansas, Judge Henry Meade himself spanked two boys for playing hooky (New York Times, 1925). Court cases reviewed in today’s society, tell a different side of corporal punishment. One case in particular occurred in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Blair County Children and Youth Service filed reports with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, against a 13-year-old boy’s parent for child abuse. According to court records, the child was paddled for being aggressive and verbally abusive towards his mother and her male partner. The child was paddled more than twelve times, suffered bruises and had trouble sitting for several days. There were no criminal charges filed against the parents, the courts said there was no evidence of malicious intent or negligence and the child’s bruises were the “normal regrettable result” of a paddling (WTAE-TV, 2003). Yet, in another case in Pierre, South Dakota a circuit judge found a 12-year-old boy’s Mother and Stepfather guilty of neglect and abuse. Court records show the child’s stepfather admitting he had taken the child to his bedroom and spanked him eight to ten times with a belt. The father had said the child had thrown a trashcan, and when confronted became out of control. The parents filing an appeal argued with the courts on three separate grounds, one being it was reasonable punishment based on the child’s behavior over a three-month span, the second being the spanking was proper under a state law that allows parents to use reasonable and moderate force to restrain or correct their children. The third being the state of South Dakota’s child abuse law is unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court unanimously up held the ruling of the circuit judge, rejecting the parent’s arguments. Justice Richard W. Sabers wrote for the court “A reasonable person would be aware that forcing a child face down on a mattress, grabbing the child’s arm tight enough to leave bruises and beating him hard enough to leave bruises constitutes abuse”. South Dakota law says such force must be reasonable in manner and moderate in degree. The Supreme Courts ruling enforced the circuit judges ruling to have the child place elsewhere (Aberdeen News, 2003). It has been long established legislative policy to safe guard the rights of parents often at the expense of children. Indeed, parents should manage and control their children. However, children deserve the same basic rights due to all human life. Guidelines and limits should be set for all children; a child can only be expected to behave if the child’s parents are living by the values they are teaching their children. Discipline is about developing unquestioning, mutual and respectful bond between child and caretaker. Children who have strong, loving role models, and constructive, non-punitive discipline are more likely to have noticeable self-discipline, excellent social skills, individual accountability and respect and concern for others.


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