Appendix 9 - Corporal Punishment

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

He Who Spares the Rod...

A 1992 article published in JAMA found that most family physicians (70%] and pediatricians [59%] supported the use of corporal punishment - meaning they would tell a parent in their medical practice that spanking would be an appropriate disciplinary response - in spite of evidence that it is, "neither effective nor necessary and can be harmful."[126]

From JAMA: "Much of what passes for ordinary corporal punishment is not punishment at all, but aversively stimulated aggression against the child. The goal of aversively stimulated aggression is to inflict pain.... Societal permission to use corporal punishment is the child's ticket to victimization." The Surgeon General: "The cultural acceptance of violence [can] be decreased by discouraging corporal punishment at home [and] forbidding corporal punishment at school... [because these] are models and sanctions of violence."[127]

It has been estimated that corporal punishment is administered between 1 and 2 million times a year in schools in the United States.[128] Legal in thirty states, courts have singled out schools as the sole public institution legally allowed to administer physical punishment. It should come to no surprise that minority students are between two and four times more likely to be physically punished than their white counterparts. Other than South Africa, we are the only "Western" country that allows schools to beat their children.[129]

Corporal punishment is not our only distinction. The United States is also one of only six countries worldwide that judicially kill people for crimes committed while they were children.

Year of the Child

From a Lancet article entitled "Medical Journals and Human Rights":

On Oct. 14 [1998], Dwayne Wright became the third juvenile offender known to have been put to death in the world this year. All three had a history of learning difficulties and all were executed in the U.S.A. Their killings violated the international ban on the death penalty against those who commit crimes when under 18 years, and were an affront to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[130]

According to the Hasting's Center Report, a medical ethics journal, "The United States is one of only two countries worldwide not to have signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."[131]


[126] McCormick, KF. "Attitudes of Primary Care Physicians Toward Corporal Punishment." Journal of the American Medical Association 276(1992):3161-3165.

[127] Ibid.

[128] "Corporal Punishment in Schools." Committee on School Health. Pediatrics 88(1991):173.

[129] Poole, SR, et al. "The Role of the Pediatrician in Abolishing Corporal Punishment in Schools." Pediatrics 88(1991):162-167.

[130] Kandela P. "Medical Journals and Human Rights." Lancet 1998:SII7-11.

[131] Nicholson, R. "The Greater the Ignorance, the Greater the Dogmatism." Hastings Center Report 1998(May-June):4.

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