Corporal punishment is a controversial form of discipline used in many countries around the world. While it has been widely accepted in the past, its use has fallen out of favor in recent years as research has documented the associated long-term negative impacts. This article will review the current literature on corporal punishment, its potential health risks, and its implications for social justice.

Corporal punishment is defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain as a form of discipline. It is a widely accepted practice in many countries, and is typically used by parents and teachers as a means of controlling behavior in children. It can take a variety of forms, including spanking, slapping, pinching, hitting, and physical restraint. While corporal punishment is often framed as a necessary tool for disciplining children, research has documented a number of concerning outcomes associated with its use.

Research suggests that the use of corporal punishment is associated with a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes. Studies have linked corporal punishment to an increased risk of aggression, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other behavioral problems. Additionally, corporal punishment has been linked to an increased risk of physical injury and abuse.

The use of corporal punishment is also connected to social justice issues, as it is disproportionately used against children of color, low-income children, and children with disabilities. Studies have documented that children in these populations are more likely to experience physical punishment, and are more likely to experience more severe forms of punishment. This has implications for the development of social disparities that can persist into adulthood.

Overall, the literature suggests that corporal punishment is associated with a range of negative physical and mental health outcomes, and is disproportionately used against certain marginalized populations. As such, it should be discouraged as a form of discipline, and alternative methods of discipline should be explored.


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Salloum, A., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2018). Corporal punishment in childhood and adolescence: An examination of the literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 59, 68–81.

Gershoff, E. T., Lansford, J. E., Sexton, H. R., Davis-Kean, P. E., & Sameroff, A. J. (2016). Racial and ethnic disparities in parents’ use of physical punishment: A meta-analytic review. Developmental Psychology, 52(9), 1376–1390.

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