Physical Punishment Resources

This website contains detailed individual reports on the legality and prevalence of violent punishment in each state and territory in the world, global and regional tables of progress towards prohibition in all settings, information on the human rights imperative to prohibit all corporal punishment, guidance on achieving prohibition, summaries of research on the issue and more.
The Center for Effective Discipline (CED) is a program of Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center (NCPTC). CED provides educational information based on current peer-reviewed research to the public on the effects and risk factors associated with the use of corporal punishment on children. Effective alternatives using positive and proactive discipline are provided.

Books & Reports

Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children
Murray A. Straus
Based on his studies of over 9,000 families, Murray A. Straus, the foremost researcher on family violence in the world, discusses the extent to which parents in the United States use corporal punishment (such as spanking and slapping) and its effects on their chil­dren.

The Primordial Violence: Spanking Children, Psychological Development, Violence, and Crime.
Straus MA, Douglas EM, Madeiros RA (2015). New York: Routledge.

Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tell Us About Its Effects of Children
Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Ph.D.
The main goal of this report is to provide a concise review of the empirical research to date on the effects physical punishment has on children. This report was created for parents and others who care for children, professionals who provide services to them, those who develop policy and programs that affect children and families, interested members of the public, and children themselves.

American Academy of Pediatrics – Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health (1998). Guidance for Effective Discipline. Pediatrics 101: 723-728.

Bitensky S (2006). Corporal Punishment of Children: A Human Rights Violation. Ardsley NY: Transnational Publishers, Inc.

Durrant J, Ensom R (2012). Physical punishment of children: Lessons from 20 years of research. Canadian Medical Association Journal 184: 1373-1376.

Fortson BL, Klevens J, Merrick MT, Gilbert LK, Alexander SP (2016). Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Technical Package for policy, norm, and programmatic activities. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gershoff ET (2002). Physical punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin 128: 539-579.

Gershoff ET (2008). Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children. Columbus OH: Center for Effective Discipline.

Gershoff ET, Grogan-Kaylor A (2016, April 7). Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses, Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication

Katan A (1961). Some thoughts about the role of verbalization in early childhood. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 16: 184-188.

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (2000). What Is Child Maltreatment?

Supporting Research

Gershoff (2002, 2008) examined hundreds of studies and presented the results of meta-analyses of the association between parental physical punishment and child and adult outcomes. She found that in childhood physical punishment was positively associated with aggression, delinquent and antisocial behavior, and being the victim of physical abuse; it was negatively associated with the quality of the parent-child relationship, mental health, and more internalization (child’s internalizing of socially acceptable behavior); and associations with immediate compliance were mixed. When measured in adulthood, physical punishment was positively associated with aggression, criminal and antisocial behavior, and adult abuse of one’s own child or spouse; physical punishment was negatively associated with mental health.

Gershoff (2002, 2008) also summarized the various demographic and risk factors which are more likely to be associated with use of physical punishment: being single, separated, or divorced; excessive stress from negative life events; maternal depression; lower income, education, and job status; southern part of the United States; and conservative religious beliefs and affiliation.

Bitensky (2006) presented a detailed summary of the international findings regarding physical punishment. She also described the various efforts made by the United Nations to prevent physical punishment.

Durrant and Ensom (2012) have provided an eloquent historical review and summary of recent research. In addition, they outlined the steps necessary to continue the progress toward eliminating physical punishment.

Straus, Douglas, and Madeiros (2013) described the most recent data, summarizing the 15 major trends in psychopathology associated with physical punishment.

Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor (2016) have updated the meta-analyses of research on physical punishment.