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Corporal Punishment Around the World

In three separate studies led by the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center, researchers have taken an in-depth look at corporal punishment around the world.  What they found, according to Desmond Runyan, lead author of one of the studies, is that “harsh treatment of children is epidemic in all communities.” 

Dr. Runyan’s study, which looked specifically at corporal punishment in Egypt, India, Chile, the Philippines, Brazil and the U.S. finds that while nearly all parents use nonviolent discipline and verbal or psychological punishment, more than half also use physical punishment.  And while there was some good news – extremely harsh methods of physical punishment including burning and smothering is rare – about 20%of parents in nine communities studied admitted to shaking children under the age of two.

Another study, lead by Adam J. Zolotor, MD, MPH, looked only at corporal punishment in the United States as revealed by four different surveys taken from 1975 to 2002.

What he found was that while fewer children were slapped or spanked by caregivers in 2002 as compared to 1975, corporal punishment is still quite popular in the U.S.  According to his findings, nearly 80% of preschool-aged children were spanked and nearly half of children ages eight and nine in the 2002 survey were hit with an object such as a paddle or switch.

The third study, also lead by Dr. Zolotor, looked at laws and changes in behaviors since the 1979 passage of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), a international convention that sets out the civil, economic, social and cultural rights of children.   Article 19 of the convention, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1989,  states that parties must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.

Despite the fact that “all forms” would seem to include corporal punishment, the convention doesn’t specifically address the issue.  And it would seem that with few exceptions, the CRC has had very little impact on the use of physical punishment around the world.  Of the 193 nations that have signed on to enforce the CRC, only 24 have banned corporal punishment.

The U.S., of course, is not one of them.  In fact, the U.S. has never signed on to the CRC and likely never will.  A bill that opposes it, sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina, is currently pending the U.S. Senate and has the support of 30 senators, all Republicans.

Despite the evidence that spanking increases aggression and the efforts of some to outlaw it, it would seem that corporal punishment is alive and well in the U.S. and around the world.

Image: HA! Designs/Flickr

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