The Spanking Ban Debate – Against A Ban

** NOTE: This article does not necessarily represent the views of A.A.A as a community, or individual administrators, and is intended to inform and engage only.

The Debate: Should There Be A Global Ban On All Forms Of Physical Punishment For Children?

 The Argument Against A Spanking Ban

  1. It impedes on the basic rights of a parent to raise their child in the way they believe to be most beneficial.
  2. Spanking is not harmful when used in the correct way, and therefore the state has no right to police it. Many people experience spanking as a child and report that they were not harmed. Claims that spanking causing permanent harm, or contributes to long-term anti-social behavior, or causes aggression in adulthood are not proven, and in fact some studies have concluded the opposite. There is someevidence to support negative effects of spanking in adulthood (some of which has been competently challenged), and there is also some evidence that rebukes this claim. If a law is to be introduced on spanking, it must be based on sound evidence that is proven in a wide variety of settings under sound control conditions, consistently. It cannot be based on a belief, opinion, hypothesis or theory. More research needs to be conducted before a spanking ban is justified.
  3. Spanking is an effective way to establish authority and get attention, particularly in situations where a child may put themselves at risk of serious harm.
  4. It is unfair to penalize parents who are attempting to discipline their children because you may not agree with their methods (assuming no lasting physical or psychological harm).
  5. It is impractical. It is hard to prove, hard to police, and it may inevitably cause more harm than good. Labeling loving, conscientious parents ‘child abusers’ doesn’t seem fair, on children or on parents. Would persist and offenders have their children removed? Would very persistent offenders serve time in prison? Is this helpful or useful to solving the problem?
  6. Such a ban would be ineffective in combating child abuse, since child abuse is already illegal. People who abuse their children are already committing an offense, and don’t care. A spanking ban would not deter people intent on hurting their children, and would penalize otherwise good parents. Evidence from countries that have a ban is inconclusive, due to conflicting evidence of methodological dubiousness.
  7. Laws should police the majority, not the minority.
  8. Children are individuals, and to introduce a ban on certain kinds of discipline does not account for children who respond better to physical rather than mental punishment (ie time outs etc). The parent is in a better position to judge what their child will respond to. Parents know their children best, and are entirely responsible for their children’s safety and behavior.
  9. Children are not the same as adultsWe recognise that in all areas of society, including their basic rights and responsibilities, because we recognise that children have not yet matured. Children are afforded different rules regarding behavioral expectations and consequencesHitting an adult is unacceptable, but so is forcing them to sit in time-out or confiscating their possessions. Urinating in public, spitting, lying, even stealing may be acceptable for some children in some contexts, but never for adults. Adults are expected to work and pay taxes and vote, adults are permitted to go and do as they please, children are not. If children should have the same rights as adults and spanking denies a basic human right,  the time-out method also denies a basic human right. The line should be drawn where serious harm is proven and agreed by the majority of reasonable people.
  10. A spanking ban at this time would be undemocratic, as across cultures an average of 80% of parents choose to use spanking as a form of discipline in rare circumstances.  If spanking were abusive as defined by that which the majority of people deem harmful, the child abuse rate would not be only 5%while the spanking rate is around 80% (USA)
  11. Educating and supporting parents on peaceful parenting may be equally if not more effective in reducing spanking and child abuse than a spanking ban, and does not infringe on parental choices, but rather empowers parents to make more informed and hopefully beneficial decision regarding discipline.

Contrary to popular belief, the pediatrician and leftist political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock did not popularize parental leniency. In early editions of his famously bestselling book, “Baby and Child Care,” Spock did not rule out spanking, (although he did later); on the contrary, Spock called for “clarity and consistency of the parents’ leadership,” considered kindness and devotion to be a necessity for parents who spank, and believed that the inability to be firm was “the commonest problem of parents in America.” He said:

“In the 20th century parents have been persuaded that the only people who know for sure how children should be managed are the child psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, social workers and pediatricians—like myself.  This is a cruel deprivation that we professionals have imposed on mothers and fathers. . . . We didn’t realize, until it was too late, how our know-it-all attitude was undermining the self-assurance of parents.   . . . And because this is a forward-looking, innovative country, there has always been less respect for the wisdom of the older generation.”

Marjorie Gunnoe, PhD,  professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has conducted many studies into the effects of spanking. Her 2010 study found that teenagers  who had been smacked only between the ages of two and six performed better than children who had not been spanked on all the positive measures. Those who had been smacked between seven and 11 fared worse on negative behaviour but were more likely to be academically successful. Teenagers who were still smacked fared worst on all counts. The effects of spanking are clearly very complex and subject to a plethora of different variables, that a ban does not and cannot account for‘One-size-fits-all’ rarely works for families. Gunnoe said of her study:

“This in no way should be thought of as a green light for spanking . . . This is a red light for people who want to legally limit how parents choose to discipline their children. I don’t promote spanking, but there’s not the evidence to outlaw it.”

Dr. Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire does make a compelling argument for a ban, but there is otherresearch that does not support his conclusions, and in some instances, reason to doubt the methodology. More research would better illuminate the problem and thus potential solutions, and it would be unreasonable to legislate against spanking until there is some certainty and clarification regarding the effects.

Dr. Diana Baumrind of the University of California, asserts that researchers have overstepped the evidence in claiming that spanking causes lasting harm to the child. She states:

“When parents are loving and firm and communicate well with the child, the children are exceptionally competent and well-adjusted, whether or not their parents spanked them as preschoolers.”

Dr. Baumrind argues that without compelling evidence that spanking is harmful, parents should be free to rear their   children in accordance with their own values and traditions. Despite its contradictions of his own conclusions, Dr Straus praised Baumrind’s study, particularly for its methodology, but stated it does not change his opinion on the effects of spanking.

Sweden has had a full ban on all physical punishment for over 30 years now. It has seen some great successes, for example, child mortality due to non-accidental reasons is down, and thus Sweden is often cited as a model for sucess. But there is reason to believe that media coverage may be bias toward this view, and in fact Swedens rising crime rate, particularly for youths, suggests that perhaps the ban has not solved problems or had the knock on effect to create a non-violent society, as was hoped.

Sweden also has proactive educational philosophy, as evidenced by a 16 page leaflet advising parents on peaceful parenting methods that the government administered at great expense to EVERY household. This, coupled with strong anti-violence and anti-bullying campaigns, must also have had an effect of Swedish society, and may have been beneficial without the need for a ban. Although there is a school of researchers, for example Robert Larzelere, who point out certain instances of child abuse and in particular crimes perpertrated by children to children, have increased since the ban was introduced.

Supporting parents through non-judgemental education on authoritive and loving parenting so that they feel empowered  and confident to choose methods other than spanking to discipline their children might be enough, without a ban that victimizes loving parents.

***AN IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: Specialists who agree spanking can be a valid form of discipline advise only a controlled and structured form of spanking, often refered to as ‘correct‘ or ‘constructive’ spanking. THIS IS THE ONLY FORM OF SPANKING WE CAN CONSIDER HAS THE POTENTIAL TO BE A VALID FORM OF DISCIPLINE. Any deviations from method may cause physical or emotional harm to a child, and as such, may be child abuse, EVEN IF the intention was to discipline and not to abuse.

Spanking is not the same as slapping, hitting, punching, grabbing (etc)…

Generally, specialist who accept spanking advise constructive spanking:

  • Never seriously hurts the child. This is defined in UK law; it IS illegal to spank a child a leave a mark.
  • Is NEVER an emotional reaction. It must never happen as a result of anger or frustration or laziness. The parent should always be calm.
  • Should be used very rarely, ONLY as a last resort in age appropriate situations of severe disobedience or danger.
  • Forms part of a wider discipline structure. There must be boundaries in place, the child must understand them, and there must be warnings prior to spanking. Children should know exactly what they can and cannot do, anything else is simply unfair and confusing to a child. Fairness is key to learning and so spanking should only be used in instances of serious disobedience or danger. Normal childhood behaviors, including but not exclusive to making a mess, bed wetting, bad hygiene, bad language, arguing and even lying and stealing. A parent must be certain as to what behaviour is normal age/individual appropriate exploration, and must never spank a child in those instances.
  • Is only ever done with a bare hand (not with other implements ie spoon, slipper, belt etc) and only ever on a clothed bottom.
  • Is generally done in private; the purpose of spanking is never to humiliate. It is only to get attention and establish authority.
  • Is always preceded by a clear explanation of what behavior warranted it.
  • Is always followed by a talk, an opportunity for the child to apologize, and a hug or other affirmation of love. The child is not bad, it is the behaviour. Once it is dealt with, it is completely over.
  • Is part of a balanced education about behavior, expectations, rights and responsibilities, including lots of praise, rewards and treats for good behavior. 

Compare that to physical abuse, which key elements include (although are not limited to):

  • Unpredictability. There are no boundaries, warnings or consistancy, the child never knows what s/he will recieve a physical attack for, how intense it will be or what will happen, and so is always ‘walking on eggshells’.Discipline of any sort, be it spanking or time-ote etc, only occurs as a direct result of clearly defined unacceptable behavior; a child can avoid dicipline by following the rules. Discipline is reasonableAbusive attacks happen for no reason at all, at any time and without warning, and there is nothing the child can do to have any control over the situation. Abuse is unreasonable and completely unacceptable.
  • Loss of control. Physical abuse is generally reactionary; ie: committed because of anger, frustration, laziness or other negaitive or aggressive emotions.
  • Fear. A child is fearful of an abusive parent, as apposed to fearful of a disciplinary consequence, be it spanking, time-outs etc. 
  • Injury/harm. Abuse causes injury, physical discipline does not.
  • The intention of abuse is (generally, but NOT always, abuse can occur through lack of action/awareness) to hurt, humiliate, scare, belittle, intimidate. Compare that with physical discipline, where the intention is  to grab attention, establish authority and train, NEVER to hurt, and it always occurs within a loving context.

Any reference to spanking here is to constructive spanking ONLY, and PARENTAL discipline/guidance choices ONLY***


Pro-Spanking study report

Comprehensive review of the research

Social scientists overstepped the evidence in claiming that spanking causes lasting harm

The Research – Anti-Spanking Ban

1. For most children, claims that spanking teaches aggression seem unfounded.  Some studies suggest that aggression is more closely linked to permissiveness, negative criticism, and watching television than spanking, and even more so than even abusive physical punishment. Children are smart.They understand the moral difference between a playground fight and punishment by legitimate authorities like parents, teachers, and judges. Sound research supports this, suggesting that a spanking does not teach a child that it’s okay to hit others to resolve conflicts.

  • Toward a Developmental-Contextual Model of the Effects of Parental Spanking on Children’s Aggression, Marjorie Lindner Gunnoe, PhD; Carrie Lea Mariner, MA Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.  1997:

Compare  UNDERSTANDING AND  PREVENTING  VIOLENCE  371 (A.J. Reiss & J.A. Roth eds., 1993) with,  e.g., Larzelere, Meta-Analysis, supra note 15, at 24, and Dan Olweus,  Familial and Temperamental Determinants of Aggressive Behavior in Adolescent Boys, 16 DEV. PSYCH. 644 (1980) See, e.g., Benatar, supra note 293 (“There is all the difference in the world between legitimate authorities—the judiciary, parents, or teachers—using punitive powers responsibly to punish wrongdoing, and children or private citizens going around beating each other, locking each other up, and extracting financial tributes (such as lunch money).  There is a vast moral difference here  and there is no reason why children should not learn about it.  Punishing children when they do wrong seems to be one important way of doing this.”).  306.  See, e.g., id.; supra note 18 (showing that spanking reduces aggression better than mental punishments).

2. With spanking bans have come increased rates of child abuse, aggressive parenting, and youth violence. 

  • e.g., Sweden’s rate of child abuse has risen almost six times since the spanking ban.  See,  e.g., U. Wittrock,  Barnmisshandel I Kriminalstatstiken 1981-1991 [Violent Crimes Against Children in Criminal Statistics1981-1991], KR Info. 7 (1992) (Swed.),  available at [hereinafter Wittrock,  1981-1991]; U. Wittrock, Barnmisshandel, 1984-1994 [Violent Crimes Against Children, 1984-1994], KR Info. 1-6 (1995) (Swed.),  available at %5Bhereinafter Wittrock,  1984-1994] (collectively showing the rates of indoor abuses when the perpetrator personally knows the child 0-6 years old rising every year, from 99 in 1981 to 583 in 1994).  Sweden’s rate of juvenile assaults has risen more than seven times since the spanking ban in 1979.  See id. (collectively showing assaults by juveniles under fifteen on their peers rose from 93 in 1981 to 718 in 1994); ROBERT  E. LARZELERE, PH.D., SWEDEN’S  SMACKING  BAN: MORE  HARM THAN GOOD 14 (2004) (saying “the incidents requiring medical attention doubled for 16-20 yearolds.  The latter trend suggests that the average victimization incident is getting more severe and not less severe . . . .  Their rates of physical child abuse and criminal assaults by minors against minors have increased at least five- or six-fold since the smacking [i.e., spanking] ban.”); infra Part III.

3. Spanking can be helpful in certain contexts, and is not inherently harmful. Harmful effects are associate more with parenting styles rather than specific disciplinary tools.

  • Diana Baumrind Univ. Cal.,, at a talk given in 2001 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, Berkeley, and here Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior, Child Development Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1966), pp. 887-907, avaliable here When Are Causal Inferences Justified in the Debate About Physical Discipline “Effects”?, Presentation at Univ. Cal., Berkeley on Inferring Causality from Longitudinal Studies (Mar. 21, 2003),  available at E.g., Baumrind, Causally Relevant Research, supra note 21, at 10 (“Thus we found no evidence for unique detrimental effects of normative physical punishment.”); id. at 8 (“There are no significant differences between children of parents who spank seldom and those who spank moderately.”); Baumrind, Discipline “Effects,” supra note 354 (“In sum, there was no evidence to . . . suggest that mild to moderate spanking is associated with negative outcomes.”). [hereinafter, Baumrind, Discipline “Effects”] (saying that Dr. Baumrind’s Family Socialization Project comprised “a study of children ages 4, 9 and 14 years”). (“Although I do not regard spanking as less humane than other forms of punishment, I am not an advocate of spanking.  Evangelicals such as Dr. James Dobson who advises spanking as an antidote to ‘stiff-necked rebellion’ because ‘pain is a marvelous purifier’ is clearly a pro-spanking advocate.  I am not.”) (emphasis in original) (citation omitted); Baumrind, Discipline Controversy,  supra note 157, at 413 (“The prudent use of punishment within the context of a responsive, supportive parent-child relationship is a necessary tool in the disciplinary encounter with young children. . . .  The extent to which spanking or any other form of aversive discipline is part of a harsh parenting pattern or is conditioned by warmth and the use of reason determines its meaning to the child and its consequent beneficial or detrimental effects.  Within the context of an authoritative childrearing relationship, aversive discipline is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehavior, and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”).See, e.g., Larzelere, Meta-Analysis, supra note 15, at 4 (surveying every child discipline study between 1979 and 2005 that analyzed: (1) spanking and at least one mental discipline tactic using similar research methods; (2) children that were, on average, less than thirteen years old when disciplined; and (3) at least one child outcome.  This meta-analysis compares outcomes of physical and mental discipline methods, and finds that outcomes rarely favor mental discipline methods, whereas customary spanking typically reduces noncompliance or antisocial behavior more than mental discipline methods); Mark W. Roberts & S.W. Powers,  Adjusting Chair Timeout Enforcement Procedures for Oppositional Children, 21 BEHAV. THERAPY 257 (1990) (showing spanking to be beneficial in enforcing timeout); Elizabeth Oddone Paolucci & Claudio Violato, A Meta-Analysis of the Published Research on the Affective, Cognitive, and Behavioral Effects of Corporal Punishment, 138 J. PSYCHOL. 197 (2004)(concluding that “corporal punishment does not substantially increase the risk to youth of developing affective, cognitive, or behavioral pathologies”); Robert E. Larzelere & G.L. Smith, Controlled Longitudinal Effects of Five Disciplinary Tactics on Antisocial Behavior, Presentation at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, D.C. (Aug. 2000) [hereinafter Larzelere, APA] (replicating Dr. Straus’ strongest causal evidence against customary spanking, but showing the same apparently detrimental outcomes of all four types of nonphysical punishment and for taking a child to a psychiatrist); Jodi Polaha, Robert E. Larzelere, Steven K. Shapiro & Gregory S. Pettit, Physical Discipline and Child Behavior Problems: A Study of Ethnic Group Differences, 4 PARENTING SCI. & PRAC. 339 (2004) (finding that, when the child outcome is based on a source of information other than the parent, physical discipline reduces aggression in African-American men and rarely increases aggression); Robert E. Larzelere,  A Review of the Outcomes of Parental Use of Nonabusive or Customary Physical Punishment, 98 PEDIATRICS 824, 827 (1996) [hereinafter Larzelere,  Review] (reporting that, for older children, grounding was more beneficial than spanking; however, for younger children, spanking was more effective than nine other common punishments—including timeout, physical restraint, reasoning, and nonphysical punishment); M. Chapman & C. Zahn-Waxler, Young Children’s Compliance and Noncompliance to Parental Discipline in a Natural Setting, 5 INT’L J.BEHAV. DEV. 81 (1982) (showing conditional spanking to be more effective than reasoning or verbal prohibition when dealing with noncompliance); S. COOPERSMITH, THE  ANTECEDENTS OF SELF-ESTEEM (1967) (physical punishment is more beneficial than love withdrawal for developing self-esteem and aspirations); D.P. Crowne, L.K. Conn, D. Marlowe & C.N. Edwards, Some Developmental Antecedents of Level of Aspiration, 37 J.PERSONALITY 73 (1969) (showing the same as COOPERSMITH, supra); Robert E. Larzelere, P.R. Sather, W.N. Schneider, D.B. Larson & P.L. Pike, Punishment Enhances Reasoning’s Effectiveness as a Disciplinary Response to Toddlers, 60 J. MARRIAGE  & FAM. 388 (1998) (showing that even severe or predominate physical punishment is more beneficial than reasoning for children who are antisocial or have a need for power); Robert E. Larzelere, P.R. Sather, W.N. Schneider, D.B. Larson & P.L. Pike, The Effects of Discipline Responses in Delaying Toddler Misbehavior Recurrences, 18 CHILD  & FAM. BEHAV. THERAPY 35 (1996) (showing that conditional spanking is more effective than reasoning alone when dealing with noncompliance, that conditional spanking stopped defiance much better than ignoring, and that conditional spanking is more effective than reasoning alone to control a child’s aggression); H. Lytton, Correlates of Compliance and the Rudiments of Conscience in Two-year-old Boys, 9 CAN. J. BEHAV. SCI. 242 (1977) (showing customary spanking to be more beneficial than verbal punishment, love withdrawal, or psychological punishment to gain compliance or to positively affect the conscience); D.C. McClelland & D.A. Pilon, Sources of Adult Motives in Patterns of Parent Behavior in Early Childhood, 44 J. PERSONALITY & SOC. PSYCHOL. 564 (1983) (showing that even severe or predominate physical punishment is more beneficial than reasoning or privilege removal for children who are antisocial or have a need for power.  Also showing that such physical punishment is more effective than love withdrawal to deal with aggression or a need for power); K.L. Ritchie,  Maternal Behaviors and Cognitions During Discipline Episodes, 35 DEV. PSYCHOL. 580 (1999) (showing conditional spanking to be more effective than reasoning when dealing with defiance.  Also showing that spanking stops defiance more effectively than threats, verbal power assertion, timeout, privilege removal, ignoring, restraint, or physical power assertion); R.R. Sears, Relation of Early Socialization Experiences to Aggression in Middle Childhood, 63 J. ABNORMAL & SOC. PSYCHOL. 466 (1961) (showing that even severe or predominate physical punishment is more beneficial than privilege removal for aggressive children or children with a need for power); Murray A. Straus & V.E. Mouradian,  Impulsive Corporal Punishment by Mothers and Antisocial Behavior and Impulsiveness of Children, 16 BEHAV. SCI. &LAW 353 (1998) [hereinafter Straus,  Impulsive] (showing that conditional spanking is more beneficial than reasoning or nonphysical punishment to improve antisocial impulsivity, and that even severe or predominate physical punishment is more beneficial than reasoning or nonphysical punishment to deal with antisocial or impulsive behavior); F.S. Tennant, R. Detels & V. Clark, Some Childhood Antecedents of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 102 AM. J. EPIDEMIOLOGY 377 (1975) (showing customary spanking to be more beneficial than non-contact punishment to reduce aggression or substance abuse); D.G. Watson, Parenting Styles and Child Behavior, Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo, 50 DISSERTATION  ABSTRACTS INT’L 3181 (1989) (showing customary spanking to be more beneficial than privilege removal to improve antisocial behavior or to reduce alcohol usage.  Also showing that customary spanking is more positively associated to academic achievement than privilege removal); M.R. YARROW, J.D.CAMPBELL  & R.V. BURTON, CHILD  REARING (1968) (showing conditional spanking is more effective than reasoning, isolation, love withdrawal, isolation, diverting, or scolding to control a child’s aggression); C. Zahn-Waxler, M. Radke-Yarrow & R. King, Prosocial Initiations Toward Victims of Distress, 50 CHILD DEV. 319 (1979) (showing that even severe or predominate physical punishment is more beneficial than verbal prohibition for developing prosocial behavior)

4. Since the spanking ban was introduced, Swedish parents resort to more physical restraint and angry yelling than U.S. parents, and also use timeout much less.

  • See,  e.g., Kerstin Palmerus & Sandra Scarr, How Parents Discipline Young Children: Cultural Comparisons and Individual Differences, Paper Presented at the Biennial Conference of the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, Ind. (1995) (reporting that, compared to U.S. parents, Swedish parents use much less physical punishment, but they also report somewhat less use of reasoning, much less use of timeout, and more use of physical restraint and coercive verbal admonitions);  cf. Den A. Trumbull, M.D. and S. DuBose Ravenel, M.D.,  Spare the Rod?  New Research Challenges Spanking Critics, 9 FAM. POL’Y 5 (Oct., 1996) (saying a spanking ban would not eliminate explosive scenarios) (“When effective spanking is removed from a parent’s disciplinary repertoire, he or she is left with nagging, begging, belittling, and yelling, once the primary disciplinary measures—such as time-out and logical consequences—have failed.  By contrast, if proper spanking is proactively used in conjunction with other disciplinary measures, better control of the particularly defiant child can be achieved, and moments of exasperation are less likely to occur.”).

5Since the spanking ban, although the Swedish population has remained relatively stable, child abuse rates have increased by over five-hundred percent. A year after the Swedish ban, parents in Sweden were twice as likely to beat their children than American parents.   By 1988, rates of physical child abuse in Sweden had risen to three times the U.S. rate.  Moreover, from 1979 to 1994, Swedish children under seven endured an almost six-fold increase in physical abuse. Each survey comparing the U.S. and Sweden used the same standards to achieve an accurate comparison.

  • The population has remained relatively stable over the past thirty years, increasing from 8,323,033 in 1981 to 8,861,426 in 1999—an increase of just over six percent, a far cry from the several hundred percent increases in youth violence and child abuse.  SCB Statistics Sweden, Swedish Population (in one-year groups) 1860-2007,  available atängd1860-2007eng.xls.  See, e.g., Richard J. Gelles & Ake W. Edfeldt, Violence towards Children in the United States and Sweden, 10 CHILD  ABUSE  & NEGLECT 501, 506 (1986) (reporting their study of thousands of Swedish and American parents.  Gelles and Edfeldt found that 0.4% of Swedish parents “threatened with a weapon” and “used a weapon” against their children, compared to 0.2% in the U.S., and that “Swedish parents report more pushing, grabbing or shoving than American parents . . . and double the rate of beating children . . . .”).  Compare Haeuser, supra note 111, at 34 (showing that the 1988 physical child abuse rate, as reported to Swedish police, was 6.5 per 1,000 children) (“Since the Swedish police data omits child abuse cases known to social services but not warranting police intervention, the actual Swedish incidence rate is probably higher” than in the U.S.), with Lyons, supra note 112 (showing the 1987 U.S. child abuse rate, when limited to physical abuse known to police or sheriffs, was only 2.2 per 1000) (citing National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Executive Summary, Study of National Incidence and Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect, (1987) (U.S.)). See,  e.g., supra note 133 and accompanying text (showing that, by 1999, child abuse leveled out at about six times as many cases as in 1981). See, e.g., Gelles, supra note 135 and accompanying text (the 1981 study using Dr. Straus’ Conflict Tactics Scale to survey both countries); supra note 136 and accompanying text (the 1988 studies relying on the same definitions to study police records from both countries). 

6Since Sweden banned spanking, toddlers and young children have begun hitting their parents often.  The more a child has grown up under the spanking ban, the more likely he is to be violent. Swedish teen violence soared in the early 1990s, when children that had grown up entirely under the spanking ban first became teenagers. Youth violence rates have been increasing even though Sweden has conducted national campaigns to stop violence since the mid-1980s.  Criminal records suggest that children raised under a spanking ban are much more likely to be involved in crime than other children.

  • See, Sweedish crime stats,   e.g., Haeuser, supra note 111, at 25 (“In 1988 I rather repeatedly saw a kind of parent child interaction in public as well as private which I had not observed at all in 1981.  Toddlers and young children for whatever reason often hit their parents, not so hard to inflict pain but continuously enough to be clearly annoying.”). See, e.g., Wittrock, 1981-1991, supra note 12; Wittrock, 1984-1994, supra note 12, at tbl. 1 (collectively showing that the youths raised after the spanking ban are more likely to perpetrate assault); LARZELERE, supra note 12, at 9 (saying “the largest increases occurred for perpetrators under 15 years of age, who were born after the ban on smacking.  The second largest percentage increase occurred for 15-19 year-old perpetrators, who were aged 0-4 when the law was passed.”). See, e.g., LARZELERE, supra note 12, at 13-14 (“Children whose preschool years from 2-6 were entirely under the ban on smacking first became teenagers in  1990.”) (Also saying crime statistics “increased relatively little during the 1980s and then increased sharply at an accelerating rate in the 1990s . . . From 1984-1989 the average annual increase in assaults by minors against minors was 3.4%.  From 1990-1994, the average annual increase was 17.9%.” See,  e.g., Susan P. Limber & Maury M. Nation, Bullying Among Children and Youth,JUV. JUST. BULL. (Apr. 1998),  available at (“The first and best-known intervention to reduce bullying among school children was launched by Olweus in Norway and Sweden in the early 1980s.”#


7. The science and statistics behind spanking suggest that laws allowing corporal punishment are in the best interests of the child.  This article challenges ‘misleading/bias/erroneous’ pro-ban research (particularly Dr.Strauss’s research) and bias media coverage that lead to mis-conceptions and half-truths about spanking and the effects of a ban. 

  • Jason M Fuller, Akron Law Review, 2009:

8. Contrary to the belief of the pro-ban lobbyists, spanking is not on the same continuum as child abuse, and parents who spank do not transform into parents who abuse. Most parents, by contrast, draw a clear line between abuse and reasonable physical discipline. 

  • See, e.g., Gershoff, supra note 199, at 553 (finding that her research “supports the notion that corporal punishment and physical abuse are two points along a continuum . . . . The task for researchers is to determine the exact conditions under which corporal punishment is transformed into abuse.”).  Even the research behind the continuum theory makes no sense.  Such research typically compares “no” corporal punishment with “lots” of corporal punishment, but excludes moderate corporal punishment.   See, e.g., Straus,  Corporal Punishment,  supra note 20, at 51 (calling Table 1 “How Much Could Ending Corporal Punishment Decrease Psychological and Social Problems?”  On the chart he has two measures: those who have experienced “High” corporal punishment and those that have experienced “None.”  Then, he shows the percentage difference between the likelihood of being depressed, for example.).  Dr. Straus uses such percentages to say that society will improve if it bans spanking.  But these comparisons merely prove that abuse or borderline abuse causes problems. See, e.g., STRAUS , supra note 33, at 285 n.6.2 (“We also could not directly test the part of the model that deals with escalation from the use of corporal punishment such as spanking . . . .”).  205.  Compare id. with id. at 13 (claiming that “most cases of physical abuse are the end point of a continuum that began with corporal punishment and got out of hand.”). See, e.g., Annette Mahoney, William O. Donnelly, Terri Lewis & Carri Maynard, Mother and Father Self-Reports of Corporal Punishment and Severe Physical Aggression Toward ClinicReferred Youth, 29 J. CLINICAL  CHILD  PSYCHOL. 266 (2000) (distinguishing the outcomes of various types of corporal punishment, from open-handed spanking to beating up a child.  The type most consistently associated with later clinical referrals was “slapped on face, head, and ears.”  Types that never predicted increased rates of clinical referrals of preschoolers or pre-adolescents included: “[spanked bottom with bare hand,” “[s]lapped hand, arm, or leg,” “[h]it on bottom with hard object,” and “[p]inched.”). See, e.g., U.N., League Table, supra note 7, at 28 (“For most parents, there is a clear line between the kind of violence they would consider to be ‘reasonable chastisement’ and the kind of violence which they would regard as ‘abuse.’”).

9. Many child discipline researchers are so strongly opposed to spanking that they refuse to study it clinically, or in successful contexts.  In narrowly tailoring most of their research to contexts in which spanking is unsuccessful, and narrowly tailoring their research methods to exclude clinical studies, they ignore a lot of the picture. For example, Dr. Straus often focuses on theoretical models and surveys of adults that were spanked as teenagers.  While it is true that spanking teenagers can be worse than mentally punishing them, spanking young children almost never is. Even on the rare occasion that Dr. Straus studied preteens, he only focused on six- to nine-year-olds that were spanked an average of 156 times a year. That’s up to thirteen times the normal rate. Also, ignoring pre-existing condition, such as a child’s predisposition to certain types of behaviour, can give the misleading results. 

  •  See, e.g., supra note 175 and accompanying text. Compare supra note 175 and accompanying text,  with,  e.g., Larzelere,  Review, supranote 17, at 824 (“First, the studies with stronger internal validity tended to find beneficial outcomes.  All six (100%) of the clinical treatment studies (including four randomized field studies and both (100%) of the sequential studies showed predominantly beneficial outcomes associated with customary or nonabusive physical punishment.  Three (30%) of the 10 prospective longitudinal studies found predominantly detrimental outcomes, whereas the other 7 (70%) prospective studies found neutral outcomes.  Nine (53%) of the 17 retrospective studies found predominantly detrimental outcomes, 7 (41%) found predominantly neutral outcomes, and 1 (6%) found predominantly beneficial outcomes.”). Rosellini, supra note 27 (“His research indicated that frequent spanking (three or more times a week) of children 6 to 9 years old, tracked over a period of two years, increased a child’s antisocial behavior, measured in activities like cheating, bullying, or lying.”); ROBERT  E. LARZELERE, CRITIQUE OF  ANTI-SPANKING  STUDY,  available at [hereinafter LARZELERE,CRITIQUE] (“The only thing that Straus et al. (1997) have proven is that spanking 6- to 9-year-olds at the rate of 156 times a year has a small, but detrimental effect (accounting for 1.3% of subsequent variation in anti-social behavior).  Most children spanked from 1 to 25 times annually were in their most-improved group . . . .”).  See, e.g., Baumrind, Discipline Controversy, supra note 157, at 409 (saying that, by age nine, only one-third of the parents spanked their children as often as once a month).

10. Sound Research Indicates that Children with the Highest Optimism, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem Have Been Spanked.

  • Diana Baumrind, at a talk given in 2001 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, and  Univ. Cal., Berkeley, Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior, Child Development Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1966), pp. 887-907, avaliable here

Argument for a ban here.

Individual perspective of AAA staff here.

One comment

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