The Effects of Physical Punishment on Children

By Mary Barton
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Disciplining children through the use of physical punishment historically has been the primary method of rearing children. An American Psychoanalytic Association study shows that physical punishment is ineffective and harmful to children, yet discovered more than 60 percent of families and 20 state educational systems use corporal punishment as a form of discipline. This public health problem profoundly impacts children and our society.

Authority Figure Influence

Parents or teachers who physically discipline children lose respect their trust. A study conducted by Voices for Children showed that even at 2 years old, children who are physically punished distance themselves from and resent their caregivers. They frequently stop listening to and heeding the advice of the abusers, questioning the judgment of those who assault them.

Lowered Mental Stability

Physically punished children lose the feeling that they are loved, their sense of safety and their self-esteem. They experience more depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness than those who aren't physically abused. Later in life, their resultant self-protective tendencies to suppress fear, anger and hostility leads to higher rates of suicide.

Learning Inadequacies

Physical punishment negatively influences children's learning and motivation to learn. Using verbal explanations to tell a child why his behavior is inappropriate teaches him how to reason; it doesn't induce inhibitions in him to explore his physical and social worlds. In schools that allow physical punishment, students are less skilled academically and consistently score lower on their American College Testing results. These children have difficulty concentrating, are disruptive in class and drop out of school more frequently.

Increased Aggression

Antisocial behavior and lack of remorse for that behavior increases in children who receive physical punishment. They have an increased tendency to bully, lie or attack their peers and destroy their own and others' belongings. They frequently associate with friends prone to delinquency. They are less emphatic and have fewer instances of moral self-regulation. They often mimic the physically abusive behavior they experienced from their parents and teachers.

Anti-Social Adults

Physical punishment in childhood has been linked to the development of adult aggression, criminal activities and the abuse of their children or partners. Adolescents who receive physical punishment are three times more likely to grow up to abuse their own children. They have a general tendency to tolerate and condone violence as adults. They tend to learn to use violent behavior as a way to deal with their problems. They also have more addictive dependencies and higher levels of problems with the use of alcohol.

About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mary Barton has been writing professionally since 1990. She has written two nonfiction books, worked as the product manager for a publishing company, an editor for two newspapers and was the content manager for various Microsoft websites. Barton has a Bachelor of Science in computer science from the University of Texas at El Paso.