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Corporal Punishment - Facts

At present only 51 countries have banned corporal punishment across their lanscapes and the first one to do so was Sweden in 1979 followed by Finland and Norway and these countries rank high on the list of low crime rates and murders.


Some countries banned corporal punishment in schools only and the first to do so was Poland in 1783.

As of 2015, most developed countries have abolished the practice in schools, with the exception of some parts of the United States, some Australian states, and Singapore.  It is still in common use in a number of countries in Africa, Asia, South and Central America and the Caribbean.  

Advocates of school corporal punishment argue that it provides an immediate response to indiscipline and that the student is quickly back in the classroom learning, as opposed to suspension from school.

Opponents, including a number of medical and psychological societies, along with human-rights groups, argue that physical punishment is ineffective in the long term, it interferes with learning, it leads to anti-social behaviour as well as various forms of mental distress, and it breaches the rights of children.


Various research and studies also indicate that corporal punishment is not an effective method of managing behaviour because it does not teach a child how to act properly.  


At best, corporal punishment has only a temporary effect on behaviour and it also teaches a child that physical force is the way to resolve conflict.


Such research regarding the use of corporal punishment suggests, that corporal punishment may lead to adverse child outcome (Gershoff, 2002; Linke, 2002; Smith et al., 2004).


In a review of the research, Smith et al. (2004) reported a number of negative developmental consequences for children who had experienced corporal punishment, including:

  • disruptive and anti-social behaviour;

  • poor academic achievement;

  • poor attachment and lack of parent-child warmth;

  • mental health problems (particularly internalising problems such as depression); and

  • substance and alcohol abuse.

Research has also shown that corporal punishment is effective in achieving immediate child compliance. 


Gershoff (2002), Smith et al. (2004) and others have argued that the benefits associated with immediate child compliance can be offset by findings that indicate that corporal punishment fails to teach a child self-control and inductive reasoning.


A survey done by CADRES in conjunction with UNICEF in 2014 in Barbados indicates that there is a lack of understanding about what constitutes corporal punishment and the dangers that it imposes on children.


It also indicates that there is increasing willingness to see the end of corporal punishment on the island.  That might even increase since 2015 when the island was shocked at the death of at least four young people who died as a result of child abuse.

Countries Outlawing Physical Punishment Of Children

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child defines corporal punishment as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however slight,” and it calls physical punishment “invariably degrading.”


Coporal punishment includes:

  • Spanking, hitting, slapping, pinching, ear pulling, jabbing, shoving, or choking.

  • burning children

  • Confining a child in an uncomfortable space.

  • Denying bathroom privileges.

  • Withholding water and food.


Corporal punishment in schools is banned in 128 states but only 10 percent of children worldwide are protected by laws banning corporal punishment at home and in school.


Sweden was the world’s first country to ban corporal punishment in 1979. Besides Slovenia, two other countries – Mongolia and Paraguay – enacted legislation in 2016, banning corporal punishment in all settings.


A full list of countries that have enacted laws prohibiting violence against children in the home and school is below.

This list is courtesy of the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment

2016 - Mongolia, Paraguay, Slovenia

2015 - Benin, Ireland, Peru

2014 - Andorra, Estonia, Nicaragua, San marion, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Malta

2013 - Cabo Verde, Honduras, TFYR Macedonia

2011 - South Sudan

2010 - Albania, Congo (Republic of), Kenya, Tunisia, Poland

2008 - Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Republic of Moldova, Costa Rica

2007 - Netherlands, New Zealand, Uruguay, Venezuela, Spain, Togo, Portugal

2006 - Greece

2005 - Hungary

2004 -Ukraine, Romania

2003 - Iceland

2002 - Turkmenistan

2000 - Israel, Germany, Bulgaria

1999 - Croatia

1998 - Latvia

1997 - Denmark

1994 - Cyprus

1989 - Austria

1987 - Norway

1983 - Finland

1979 - Sweden

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