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Corporal or physical punishment is any punishment where physical force, no matter how slight, is used to discipline a child. Other punishments that are not physical but are intended to belittle or degrade a child can also be considered corporal punishment.
Corporal punishment has been illegal in most developed countries since the late 20th century, but is still legal in a large portion of the world and in portions of the United States. Successfully eliminating legal corporal punishment means a society-wide change in attitudes towards using violence as a disciplinary method against children whether in homes or schools. There is a large body of research on the negative effects of corporal punishment. One is escalation. When mild violence doesn’t have the intended outcome, it becomes more pronounced, from light taps to hard hitting. Another is encouraging violence.
When you respond to behavior that you don’t like with violence, it teaches children that violence is an appropriate response when they are unhappy. There are also effects that cannot be measured but are incredibly harmful, such as psychological damage and the lowering of a child’s self-esteem. Teachers or caregivers who inflict violence on children often act out of personal frustration. Often children will not speak out due to fear, but will act out in their behavior, which causes more frustration, leading to further corporal punishment, a perpetuation of a vicious cycle.