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Monday, September 10, 2012

Corporal Punishment Research Paper

Essay on The Psychological Effect of Corporal Punishment in Children

In our society, the word punishment usually has a negative connotation. When people hear such word, they generally associate it with discipline and may recall childhood memories of getting punished at home or in school. A more technical approach on punishment is that it is said to occur when an event following an action weakens the tendency to make that same action such as when a pigeon pecks a dish, it receives a brief shock which leads to the rapid decrease in the tendency of the pigeon to peck the dish again (Weiten 205). Furthermore, Weiten wrote that punishment encompasses far more than disciplinary acts but it is used more frequently for disciplinary purposes which brings forth interesting discussions.

In disciplining children, punishment may come in different forms. Some parents or teachers would resort to verbal reprimand, social isolation or withdrawal of privileges while some still use physical punishment or corporal punishment. Mash noted that in the past 50 years or so, child-rearing practices have been changing dramatically with parents being expected to focus on the child’s developmental strengths and limitations and move away from disciplinary control methods (458). In the past, corporal punishment is common and well accepted but toward the end of the twentieth century, movements have developed towards the abandonment of corporal punishment (Myers 207). Opponents of corporal punishment back up their cause with a growing number of research studies that indicate corporal punishment to have deleterious consequences among children. Such consequences, according to Flynn may be psychological or behavioral which may include alcohol abuse, depression, suicidal thoughts, behavioral problems, low achievement and future economic insecurity (qtd. in Myers 208). Favela highlighted studies that suggested that children who were spanked suffer emotionally, are more likely to have lower IQs and are more aggressive.  A meta-analysis from Gershoff on the positive and negative long-range effects of parental corporal punishment displays a more comprehensive view of the consequences of this form of discipline with the following findings: 
          Negative or undesirable outcomes showed decreases in the subsequent areas during           childhood: moral internalization, quality of relationship between the parent and   
          child mental health. Associated decrease in mental health was also found later in           adulthood. In addition, there were increases in the aspects of child aggression, child           delinquent and antisocial behavior. In adulthood, increases in the risk of being a      
          victim of physical abuse, risk of abusing own child and spouse, adult aggression,     
          adult criminal and antisocial behavior were observed among adults who experienced           corporal punishment during their childhood. There was only one desirable behavior           linked to corporal punishment which is increased immediate compliance in the part   
          of the child. (qtd in Mash 458)       

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More recent studies echo the results of Gershoff but her conclusions are not without critics. Arguments raised include that evidence linking spanking to negative effects is correlational which is not an assurance of causation. It means that corporal punishment cannot be directly pointed out as the cause for the negative effects enumerated earlier. In such light, Damon points out that there is still a great deal to learn about the long-term effects of corporal punishment and the factors that serve to moderate its effects (402). Moreover he expressed that although such form of discipline is usually associated with negative outcomes for the child, the associated pathway and the qualifying variables for such relationship are still unclear.

With more research findings that discredit the effectiveness of corporal punishment among children, societal views have now shifted to the discouragement of its use. However, despite the negative effects associated with physically punishing children, some parents still find it as an effective means of disciplining their children. The practice of corporal punishment cannot be easily uprooted from society because, as stated by Mash, cultural norms in many countries have long accepted corporal punishment as a primary, even necessary component of discipline (458). It will take more research to change the mind set about corporal punishment among parents, teachers and authority figures who grew up experiencing corporal punishment themselves and found it to be more effective than detrimental to their individual development.        

Works Cited
Damon, William and Nancy Eisenberg. Handbook of Child Psychology Volume 3: Social,    
           Emotional, and Personality Development, 6th edition. New York, NY: Wiley, 2006.
Favela, Regina. “Emotional and Physical Development of Children Who Get Paddled.” 10           June 2010. Live 6 September 2012  
          <               article/144862-emotional-physical-
          development-of-       children-who-get-paddled/>.
Mash, Eric J. and David A. Wolfe. Abnormal Child Psychology, 4th edition. Belmont, CA:  
          Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.  
Myers, John E B. Myers on Evidence in Child, Domestic and Elder Abuse cases, Successor        edition. New York: Aspen Publishers, 2005.
Weiten, Wayne. Psychology: Themes and Variations, 8th edition. Australia; Belmont, CA:          Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011.

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