Corporal punishment

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Scientific view

"An abundance of high quality research has produced findings that are highly consistent from study to study which show that spanking is a risk factor for aggressive behavior and other social and psychological problems. [1]"

Christian child rearing

Evangelical leaders have frequently called for corporal punishment, chastisement or spanking of children. It is also considered acceptable by the Catholic Church. [2] Support for corporal punishment is widespread in the fundamentalist home schooling movement. It is largely based on the idea that humans are sinful and this sin demands punishment. [3] This has lead to the deaths of children, however cases such as these are dismissed by apologists as a symptom of unstable parents. [4] Apologists such as Michael Pearl claim that their view is a way for parents to emulate God:

"The lawgiver must administer this kind of chastisement in order to effectively remove guilt. A child knows but one lawgiver—his parents. [5]"

Corporal punishment is argued to be useful in conditioning children into obedience, including when they are not old enough to understand the consequences of their actions:

"One of our girls who developed mobility early had a fascination with crawling up the stairs. At four months she was too unknowing to be punished for disobedience. But for her own good, we attempted to train her not to climb the stairs by coordinating the voice command of "No" with little spats on the bare legs. The switch was a twelve-inch long, one-eighth-inch diameter sprig from a willow tree. [...] Such was her fascination with climbing that four or five sessions had not made her stop. The thought of further spankings was disconcerting, so I conceived an alternative. After one more spanking, I laid the switch on the bottom step. We later observed her crawl to the stairs and start the ascent, only to halt at the first step and stare at the switch. She backed off and never again attempted to climb the stairs, even after the switch was removed. [6]"

Critics point out that defenders of corporal punishment are dangerously obsessed with child obedience. [7]

Proponents sometimes cite biblical sources to support their view:

"The rod and reproof give wisdom"

Proverbs 29:15 Bible-icon.png

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him"

Proverbs 22:15 Bible-icon.png

In the above cases, corporal punishment is religiously justified rather than being based on reliable forms of evidence. Some parents have taken to extreme punishment of children, including murder. The parents often claim to be following the teaching of Michael Pearl, [8] although Pearl claims his methods do not include causing severe injury. The effectiveness of corporal punishment and it's possible effects are still controversial. There are many child welfare groups [9] and psychology associations [10] that call for a total ban on corporal punishment of children, citing the lack of evidence for benefit and its association with child abuse and with violence in culture.

Within Christian marriage

A minor movement called Christian Domestic Discipline has argued for the use of corporal punishment by husbands to discipline their wives. [11]

"A relationship that infantilizes a woman is one that clearly draws a more pathological group of people. [12]"


  1. Murray A. Straus, Emily M. Douglas and Rose Anne Medeiros, The Primordial Violence: Spanking Children, Psychological Development, Violence, and Crime, 2013
  2. [1]
  3. Christopher G. Ellison and Darren E. Sherkat, Conservative Protestantism and Support for Corporal Punishment, American Sociological Review, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Feb., 1993), pp. 131-144
  4. Erik Eckholm, Preaching Virtue of Spanking, Even as Deaths Fuel Debate, NY Times, November 6, 2011
  5. Michael Pearl, To Train Up a Child, December 1, 1995
  6. Michael and Debi Pearl, To Train Up a Child, No Greater Joy Ministries, December 1, 1994
  7. Janet Heimlich, Breaking Their Will
  8. Alicia Bayer, Another child's death linked to Pearls and "To Train Up a Child", February 24, 2010
  9. [2]
  10. [3]
  11. [4]
  12. [5]

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