APSAC Position Statement on Corporal Punishment of Children
APSAC POSITION STATEMENT ON CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OF CHILDREN
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) is the leading national organization supporting professionals who serve children and families affected by child maltreatment. APSAC works toward a world where all maltreated and at-risk children and their families receive the highest level of professional commitment and service, prioritizing the safety and well being of children. To that end, APSAC calls for the elimination of all forms of corporal punishment and physical discipline of children in all environments including in schools and at home. Corporal punishment is herein defined as “the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correcting or controlling the child’s behavior” (pg. 3).1 Physical force in the form of hitting is often referred to as spanking, swatting, whipping, whooping, popping, smacking, slapping, or paddling – all of which are behaviors used in the name of child discipline. Studies show that corporal punishment is very common in the U.S.2,3 In about 50% of families, corporal punishment is used against children by the time they are 1-1/2 years old.4,5
APSAC is committed to ending all abuse of children and promoting children’s welfare. Given the research evidence about the harms associated with corporal punishment, APSAC opposes hitting children for discipline or other purposes. APSAC calls for the elimination of all forms of corporal punishment in part because it increases children’s risk for physical abuse.6-8 The Adverse Childhood Experiences research found that 28% of adults experienced some form of physical punishment as a child, including being pushed, grabbed, slapped, or hit.9 Consistent with other research, a major Canadian study found that nearly three quarters of all cases of “substantiated physical abuse” began as corporal punishment.10 Young children who experience corporal punishment are at greater risk for Child Protective Services involvement.11 Additionally, corporal punishment is related to a host of negative outcomes for children, including risk for child behavioral problems such as increased aggression and antisocial behavior.7,12,13 No studies show that corporal punishment has positive effects on children or leads to improved child behavior.7,14,15
APSAC members are in an excellent position to educate parents and caregivers of children, as well as individuals who work with children and families, about the negative consequences associated with the use of corporal punishment. APSAC advocates for behaviors and practices that will develop caring and responsible individuals and recommends strategies that will nurture, teach, and guide children and adolescents while supporting and promoting the child’s dignity.
APSAC recommends that professionals engage in the following:
- Inform parents, caregivers, teachers, and the general public about the harmful effects of corporal punishment;
- Educate parents, caregivers and teachers about age-specific expectations for child skills, behavior, and development;
- Provide parents, caregivers, teachers, pediatricians, clinicians, and other professionals who work with parents and families with suggestions for positive parenting approaches that use non-physical forms of child guidance; for example, teaching children limit setting, self-regulation, and respect for self.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), adopted in November 1989, specifies that all governments who ratified the Convention must take appropriate measures to protect children from all forms of physical and mental violence, including corporal punishment. The UN CRC strongly supports parents providing nonviolent guidance and direction to their children. In schools, administrators and teachers are to take into account the child’s “human dignity” and eliminate any physical discipline practices that may cause physical or mental harm.16 Hitting family members other than children, as well as hitting acquaintances or strangers, is considered assault and a crime. Children, too, have the right and need to be afforded the same consideration in all settings.
Research shows that use of corporal punishment varies by culture, nationality, race, and ethnicity – that is, corporal punishment is more commonly used and more accepted in some cultural contexts.17-19 However, corporal punishment is associated with negative outcomes for children across cultural contexts.20,21 Globally, there is growing commitment to a universal ban against corporal punishment. As of May 2016, 49 countries worldwide had prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the home and at least 54 more countries had expressed a commitment to full prohibition. (For the most current list, see: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/).
Furthermore, the APSAC position statement is informed by professional position statements against corporal punishment or addressing better alternatives to child discipline issued by:
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Maltreatment and Violence Committee
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
- American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA)
- National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP)
- National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence (NPEIV)
- Save the Children
- Section 37 of the American Psychological Association (APA) – Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice
- The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI)
Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a technical package called Preventing child abuse and neglect: A technical package for policy, norm, and programmatic activities on strategies and approaches for preventing child abuse and neglect.22 Legislative bans on corporal punishment, as evidenced in 49 countries worldwide, is an effective strategy proposed by CDC as an approach for changing social norms to support parents and positive parenting.
Therefore, building on the growing global progress toward universal prohibition of corporal punishment of children, in a commitment to promote quality, safe, and nurturing environments where children can grow and develop to their full potential, APSAC calls for the elimination of all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings including homes and schools. APSAC pledges an active role to inform our allied professionals, policy makers, and the general public about the risk factors associated with the corporal punishment of children.
- Donnelly M, Straus MA. Corporal Punishment of Children in Theoretica New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2005.
- Straus MA, Stewart JH. Corporal punishment by American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration, in relation to child and family characteristics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. 1999;2:55-70.
- Straus MA. Prevalence, societal causes, and trends in corporal punishment by parents in world perspective. Law and Contemporary Problems. 2010;73(1):1-30.
- Zolotor AJ, Robinson TW, Runyan DK, Barr RG, Murphy RA. The emergence of spanking among a representative sample of children under 2 years of age in North Carolina. Frontiers in Psychiatry: Child and Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry. 2011;2:1-8.
- MacKenzie MJ, Nicklas E, Brooks-Gunn J, Waldfogel J. Who spanks infants and toddlers? Evidence from the fragile families and child well-being study. Children and Youth Services Review. 2011;33(8):1364-1373.
- Gershoff ET. Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin. 2002;128(4):539-579.
- Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A. Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology.
- Zolotor AJ, Theodore AD, Chang JJ, Berkoff MC, Runyan DK. Speak softly – and forget the stick: Corporal punishment and child physical abuse. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(4):364-369.
- Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Bremner JD, et al. The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood: A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience. 2006;256:174-186.
- Trocme N, Fallon B, MacLaurin B, et al. Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008: Executive Summary & Chapters 1-5. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada;2010.
- Lee SJ, Grogan-Kaylor A, Berger LM. Parental spanking of 1-year-old children and subsequent Child Protective Services involvement. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2014;38:875- 883.
- Taylor CA, Manganello JA, Lee SJ, Rice J. Mothers’ spanking of 3-year-old children and subsequent risk of children’s aggressive behavior. 2010;125(5):e1057-e1065.
- Maguire-Jack K, Gromoske AN, Berger LM. Spanking and child development during the first five years of life. Child Development. 2012;83(6):1960-1977.
- Altschul I, Lee SJ, Gershoff ET. Hugs, not hits: Warmth and spanking as predictors of child social competence. Journal of Marriage and Family. 2016;78:695–714.
- Durrant JE, Ensom R. Physical punishment of children: Lessons from 20 years of research. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2012;184(12):1373-1377.
- Child CotRot. General Comment No. 8 (2006): The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and/or cruel or degrading forms of punishment (articles 1, 28(2) and 37. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations;2006.
- Lansford JE, Dodge KA. Cultural norms for adult corporal punishment of children and societal rates of endorsement and use of violence. Parenting: Science and Practice. 2008;8(3):257-270.
- Lansford JE, Alampay LP, Al-Hassan SM, et al. Corporal punishment of children in nine countries as a function of child gender and parent gender. International Journal of Pediatrics.
- Lansford JE, Deater-Deckard K. Childrearing discipline and violence in developing countries. Child Development. 2012;83(1):62-75.
- Gershoff ET, Lansford JE, Sexton HR, Davis-Kean PE, Sameroff AJ. Longitudinal links between spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors in a national sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Families. Child Development. 2012;83(3):838-843.
- Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A, Lansford JE, et al. Parent discipline practices in an international sample: Associations with child behaviors and moderation by perceived normativeness. Child Development. 2010;81(2):487-502.
- Fortson BL, Klevens J, Merrick MT, Gilbert LK, Alexander SP. Preventing child abuse and neglect: A technical package for policy, norm, and programmatic activities. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;2016.
*Additional references and citations on the prevalence and effects of corporal punishment are available upon request.
Resources for Parents
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preventing child abuse and neglect: A technical package for policy, norm, and programmatic
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Essentials for Parenting: http://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/index.html
- American Psychological Association, ACT Raising Safe Kids Parenting Program: http://www.apa.org/pi/prevent-violence/programs/act.aspx
- Durrant, J. E. (2013). Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting (3rd ed.). Sweden: Save the Children. http://www.positivedisciplineeveryday.com/
SafeCare Parenting Program
- Edwards-Gaura, A., Whitaker, D.J., Lutzker, J.R., Self-Brown, S., & Lewis, E. (2012). Safe Care: Application of an evidence-based program to prevent child maltreatment. Chapter 17 in Programs and Intervention for Maltreated Children and Families at Risk (Editor: Rubin). à Chapter is available online through University of Michigan Library
General reading on topic of discipline and effects on children
- Fontes, L.A., (2005). Physical discipline and abuse (pp. 108 – 134). Child abuse and culture: working with diverse cultures. Guilford
- Gershoff, E. T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539-579.
- Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7, 133-137.
- Gershoff, E.T., Purtell, K.M., & Holas, I. (2015). Corporal punishment in US public schools: Legal precedents, current practices, and future policy. Springer Briefs in Psychology, Fiese,
- Holden, G. W., Williamson, P. A., & Holland, G. W. O. (2014). Eavesdropping on the family: A pilot investigation of corporal punishment in the home. Journal of Family Psychology.
- Lee, S. J., Grogan-Kaylor, A., & Berger, L. M. (2014). Parental spanking of 1-year-old children and subsequent Child Protective Services involvement. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38, 875-883.
- Lee, S. J., Altschul, I., & Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Does warmth moderate longitudinal associations between maternal spanking and child aggression in early childhood? Developmental Psychology, 49, 2017-2028.
- MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, E., Waldfogel, J., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2013). Spanking and child development across the first decade of life. Pediatrics, 132, e1118-e1125.
- Taylor, C. A., Manganello, J. A., Lee, S. J, & Rice, J. (2010). Mothers’ spanking of 3-year-old children and subsequent risk of children’s aggressive behavior. Pediatrics, 125, e1057- e1065.
- Zolotor, A. J., Robinson, T. W., Runyan, D. K., Barr, R. G., & Murphy, R. A. (2011). The emergence of spanking among a representative sample of children under 2 years of age in North Carolina. Frontiers in Psychiatry: Child and Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry, 2, 1-8.
Selected Additional Readings on Parental Discipline and Parent Training
Primary prevention – Parent education and anticipatory guidance approaches
- Ateah, C. A. (2013). Prenatal parent education for first-time expantant parents: “Making it through labor is just the beginning…”. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 27(2), 91-97.
- Holden, G. W., Brown, A. S., Baldwin, A. S., & Caderao, K. C. (2013). Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(5), 902-908.
- Reich, S. M., Penner, E. K., Duncan, G. J., & Auger, A. (2012). Using baby books to change new mothers’ attitudes about corporal punishment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(2), 108-117.
- Scholer, S. J., Hudnut-Beumler, J., & Dietrich, M. S. (2010). A brief primary care intervention helps parents develop plans to discipline. Pediatrics, 125(2), e242-e249.
- Sege, R. D., Perry, G., Stigol, L., Cohen, L., Griffith, J., Cohn, M., & Spivak, H. (1997). Short-term effectiveness of anticipatory guidance to reduce early childhood risks for subsequent violence. 151, 4(392-397).
- Stein, M.T. (2010). Teaching parents effective discipline during a health supervision visit. Pediatrics, 125, e442-e443.
Nurturing Parenting Program (NPP)
- Bavolek, S. J. (2000). The Nurturing Parenting Programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Bulletin
- Palusci, V. J., Crum, P., Bliss, R., & Bavolek, S. J. (2008). Changes in parenting attitudes and knowledge among inmates and other at-risk populations after a family nurturing program. Children and Youth Services Review, 30(1), 79–89.
- Bavole, S.J, & Hodnett, K.H. (2012). The Nurturing Parent Programs: Preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. Chapter 19 in Programs and Intervention for Maltreated Children and Families at Risk (Editor: Rubin). à Chapter is available online through University of Michigan Library
The ACT Program
- Knox, M., Burkhart, K. & Cromley, A. (2013). Supporting positive parenting in community health centers: The ACT Raising Safe Kids Program. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(4), 395-407.
- Knox, M. S., Pelletier, H., & Vieth, V. (2014). Effects of medical student training in child advocacy and child abuse prevention and intervention. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 6(2), 129-133.
- Portwood, S. G., Lambert, R. G., Abrams, L. P., & Nelson, E. B. (2011). An Evaluation of the Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence Parents Raising Safe Kids Program. The journal of primary prevention, 32(3-4), 147-160.
- Link to book: Programs and interventions for maltreated children and families at risk, Edited by Rubin – available online through UM library
Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting
- Durrant, J. E. (2013). Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting (3rd ed.). Sweden: Save the Children.
- Webster-Stratton, C., & Reid, J.M. (2012). The Incredible Years: Evidence based parenting and child programs for families involved in the child welfare system. Chapter 2 in Programs and Intervention for Maltreated Children and Families at Risk (Editor: Rubin). à Chapter is available online through University of Michigan Library
Community-Level Risk Factors
- Button, D. M. (2008). Social Disadvantage and Family Violence: Neighborhood Effects on Attitudes about Intimate Partner Violence and Corporal Punishment. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 33(1), 130–147.
- Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2005). Relationship of corporal punishment and antisocial behavior by neighborhood. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159(10), 938–942.
- Molnar, B. E., Buka, S. L., Brennan, R. T., Holton, J. K., & Earls, F. (2003). A multilevel study of neighborhoods and parent-to-child physical aggression: Results from the project on human development in Chicago neighborhoods. Child Maltreatment, 8(2), 84–97.
Culture, race, ethnicity, religion, and gender
- Fontes, L. A. (2002). Child discipline and physical abuse in immigrant Latino Journal of Counseling and Development, 80, 31-40.
- Gershoff, E. T., Lansford, J. E., Sexton, H. R., Davis-Kean, P. E., & Sameroff, A. J. (2012). Longitudinal links between spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors in a national sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Families. Child Development, 83(3), 838-843. doi: 1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01732.x
- Gershoff, E. T., Grogan-Kaylor, A., Lansford, J. E., Chang, L., Zelli, A., Deater-Deckard, K., & Dodge, K. A. (2010). Parent discipline practices in an international sample: Associations with child behaviors and moderation by perceived normativeness. Child Development, 81, 487-502.
- Gershoff, E., et al. (1999). Parenting influences from the pulpit: Religious affiliation as a determinant of parental corporal punishment. Journal of Family Psychology, 13, 3(307-320).
- Lansford, J. E., Chang, L., Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Obuni, P., Palmerus, K., . . . Quinn,1246 (2005). Physical discipline and children’s adjustment: Cultural normativeness as a moderator. Child Development, 76, 1234-1246.
- Lee, S.J., & Altschul, I. (2015). Spanking of young children: Do immigrant and U.S. born Hispanic parents differ? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30(3), 475-498.
- Giles-Sims, J., & Lockhart, C. (2005). Culturally shaped patterns of disciplining Journal of Family Issues, 26(2), 196.
- Cramer, P., & Kelly, F. D. (2010). Attachment style and defense mechanisms in parents who abuse their children. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198(9), 619-627.
- Crawford, A. and Benoit, D. (2009). Caregivers’ disrupted representations of the unborn child predict later infant-caregiver disorganized attachment and disrupted interactions. Infant Mental Health Journal 30(2), 124-144.