Corporal punishment can be defined as a painful, intentionally inflicted (typically, by striking a child) physical penalty administered by a person in authority for disciplinary purposes. Corporal punishment can occur anywhere, and whipping, beating, paddling, and flogging are specific forms of corporal punishment (Cohen, 1984).

Twenty-two states allow physical punishment in school. Whether school administrators follow the statue is irrelevant, because if the statue remains a law, the mindset that paddling is acceptable in school, children are without doubt subjected to physical punishment at home.

The fact remains, corporal punishment causes emotional as well as physical damage, which if not resolved through a healing specifically focused on the aftereffects of physical violence, the damage continues to plague the person for a lifetime. Hitting, paddling, smacking, whacking, bopping, or any form of physical assault against a child is violence, because the act violates the child's sacred body boundaries.

Furthermore, when a parent, whom the child is totally dependent on, uses physical punishment, the child is betrayed in the worst way possible. "I love you, therefore, I hit you," is hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy because love and hitting (hurting) can not co-exist simultaneously. It is hypocrisy because the same act against an adult is considered assault and battery and the perpetrator is subject to arrest and possible jail sentence. Why then, when so much is at stake, do we assault our children when we protect adults from the same violent act? The answer is quite simple.

The answer is not complicated. We cannot have empathy for children until we can honestly acknowledge the mistreatment from our own childhood experiences and examine the shortcomings of our own parents.
To the extent we feel compelled to defend our parents and guard their secrets, we will do the same for others. We will look the other way. By continually insisting that we, 'turned out okay,' we are reassuring ourselves and diverting our attention from deeply hidden unpleasant memories.

This why, when someone says, 'spanking, hitting, smacking or other forms of physical assault is abuse many people react as though a door barricaded since infancy has been smashed open. This barricaded, unconscious door has prevented us from committing the most dangerous, most unpardonable act of disloyalty imaginable, disloyalty to our parents. We are afraid that by opening the door we might fall through into an abyss--abdandoned and cut off from any possibility of reconciliation with the parents we love. The fear is irrational. Denial--about what was done to our generation and, now, what we are doing and allowing to be done to the next generation--is the real danger and the real sin.

Dr. Frank Putnam of the National Institute of Mental Health and Dr. Martin Teicher of Harvard Medical School studied 170 girls, 6-15 years old-half had experienced corporal punishment, half had been subjected to physical punishment--for seven years. The girls who experienced corporal punishment had symptoms such as abnormally high stress hormones, which can kill neurons in brain areas crucial for thinking and memory, and high levels of an antibody that weakens the immune system.

Teicher completed a series of brain studies on 402 children and adults, many of whom experienced corporal punishment. His findings revealed that corporal punishment creates arrested growth of the left hemisphere of the brain which can hamper development of language and logic and arrested growth of the right hemisphere of the brain (the site for emotions) at an abnormally early age.

The AMA and APA ignore these studies. Why do the AMA and APA ignore these studies and other noted researchers' work-for example: Judith Herman, M.D? The answer lies within the denial theory-if we don't believe it, it can't hurt us. The irony is "Facts do no cease to exist because they are ignored," and the tragic results follow.

The Corporal Punishment results include, but are not limited to:

• Children whose parents use corporal punishment to correct unacceptable behavior show more antisocial behavior over a long period of time, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, and regardless of whether the mother provides cognitive stimulation and emotional support (Gunnoe & Mariner, 1997; Kazdin, 1987; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Adults who were hit as children are more likely to be depressed or violent themselves (Berkowitz, 1993; Strassberg, Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992).

• The more a child is hit, the more likely the child, when an adult, will hit his or her children, spouse, or friends (Julian & McKenry, 1993; Straus, 1991; Straus, 1994; Straus & Gelles, 1990; Straus & Kantor, 1992; Widom, 1989; Wolfe, 1987).

• Corporal punishment increases the probability of children assaulting the parent in retaliation, when they are older (Brezina, 1998).

• Corporal punishment sends a message that violence is a viable option for solving problems (Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980; Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Corporal punishment is degrading, contributes to feelings of helplessness and humiliation, robs a child of self-worth and self-respect, and can lead to withdrawal, aggression, mental and physical dysfunctions (Sternberg et al., 1993; Straus, 1994).

• Corporal punishment destroys trust between parent and child, and increases the risk of child abuse; as a discipline measure, it simply does not decrease children's aggressive or delinquent behaviors (Straus, 1994).

• Children who are spanked regularly are more likely over time to cheat or lie, be disobedient at school, bully others, and show less remorse for wrongdoing (Straus, Sugarman, & Giles-Sims, 1997).

• Corporal punishment adversely affects children's cognitive development. Children who are spanked perform poorly on school tasks compared to other children (Straus & Mathur, 1995; Straus & Paschall, 1998).

Author's Bio: 

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Life Coach, Hypnosis Practitioner, author, "If I'd Only Known...Sexual Abuse in or Out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, is noted for her pioneering work in Verbal, Physical, Sexual Abuse Prevention and Recovery.