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Corporal Punishment of Children Paul L Poelstra   

This web page provides links and references to research on corporal punishment of children in the home and critiques of the anti-spanking research.  Some of these critiques can be used in statistics and research design courses to illustrate methodological flaws that can occur in psychological research.  These studies also illustrate the importance of going to the original sources and not relying on the media or other secondary sources when studying an area of research.  Advocacy groups often overgeneralise research data ("research proves...") and/or ignore research studies which could provide a more balanced perspective on the issues.

The first link is to a summary of Dr Larzelere's (director of research at Boy's Town, Nebraska) presentation in a debate about spanking with Murray Straus.  Larzelere reports that the small detrimental child outcomes reported by Straus, Sugarman & Giles-Sims (1997) for six to nine-year-olds is not unique to spanking.  A further analysis of the Straus, et al. data revealed that identical small detrimental child outcomes were also found for all four alternative disciplinary responses for six to nine-year-olds (grounding, sending the child to a room, removing privileges, and taking away an allowance.)

Another link points to a well-designed study by Gunnoe & Mariner (1997) which critically examined the claim that spanking teaches children that physical aggression can be used appropriately in conflict situations. The authors concluded that: "for most children, claims that spanking teaches aggression seem unfounded." Increased levels of child aggression are not likely when the child interprets a spanking as a legitimate expression of parental authority.

There is also a link to a paper on Corporal Punishment by philosopher David Benatar (1998) where he analyses the anti spanking arguments that corporal punishment is degrading, that it is psychologically damaging, that it teaches the child that violence is an appropriate way to settle disagreements, etc. He demonstrates that these arguments fail for lack of evidence and/or are logically unsound.  For example, if spanking conveys the message to the child that violence is permissible to resolve conflicts, the same could be said of other forms of discipline.  Thus, putting a child in time-out would convey the message that it is permissible to restrict the liberty of a person who displeases one.  Likewise, fines would convey the idea that it is okay to take something away from another person when one was unhappy with them, etc.  He also argues that there is a difference between a responsible adult authority legitimately punishing wrongdoing and individuals indiscriminately beating up those who frustrate them.  Children are capable of understanding this difference in context.  


Another politically incorrect contribution  to the debate

by John H Taylor is at:    

One topic that may in many ways seem not worth discussing in connection with political correctness, is the spanking of children and its effects. However when you compare the amount of vitriol, the excessive language, against the evidence concerning the 'harm' done by spanking it appears totally disproportionate. Especially as the same sources that attack the spanking of children also tend to belong to the left wing politically-correct camp. Something deeper than a concern for children appears to be at work. In the eyes of many of these "child experts", spanking is the original sin.


A MENZ Issues article

in January 1998 by Robert Mann  Should Corporal Punishment Be Abolished? was also published in the New Zealand Herald.

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