What is Corporal Punishment?

A definition of corporal punishment, also known as physical punishment

mother spanking daughter
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Corporal punishment or physical punishment is defined as the use of physical force, such as striking with a bare hand or an object such as a belt, or using other methods to cause physical pain or discomfort in a child to correct or punish that child's behavior. It can include "light physical force, such as a slap on a child's hand, as well as heavier physical force, including hitting children with hard objects such as a wooden spoon or paddle," according to Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children, a comprehensive review of solid studies that have been conducted on the effects of corporal punishment in kids by Liz Gershoff, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and associate professor at the Department of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Texas at Austin who has done extensive research on the effects of physical punishment on children.

Physical punishment can also include practices like forcing kids to kneel on painful objects (such as rice), stand in uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, or perform exhausting and grueling physical exercise (such as running laps with few water breaks).

In the United States, according to Dr. Gershoff's report, physical punishment is known by a variety of
names including "spank," "smack," "slap," "pop," "beat," "paddle," "punch," "whup/whip," and "hit."

Many children's health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken a stand against corporal punishment, citing extensive research that shows that spanking can be harmful and ineffective.

For more about corporal punishment, read:

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