A meta-analysis of the published research on the affective, cognitive, and behavioral effects of corporal punishment

J Psychol. 2004 May;138(3):197-221. doi: 10.3200/JRLP.138.3.197-222.


The present study is a meta-analysis of the published research on the effects of corporal punishment on affective, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes. The authors included 70 studies published between 1961 and 2000 and involving 47,751 people. Most of the studies were published between 1990 and 2000 (i.e., 53 or 68%) and were conducted in the United States (65 or 83.3%). Each of the dependent variables was coded, and effect sizes (ds) were computed. Average unweighted and weighted ds for each of the outcome variables were .35 and .20 for affective outcomes, .33 and .06 for cognitive outcomes, and .25 and .21 for behavioral outcomes, respectively. The analyses suggested small negative behavioral and emotional effects of corporal punishment and almost no effect of such punishment on cognition. Analyses of several potentially moderating variables, such as gender or socioeconomic status, and the frequency or age of first experience of corporal punishment, the relationship of the person administering the discipline, and the technique of the discipline all had no affect on effect size outcome. There was insufficient data about a number of the moderator variables to conduct meaningful analyses. The results of the present meta-analysis suggest that exposure to corporal punishment does not substantially increase the risk to youth of developing affective, cognitive, or behavioral pathologies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Punishment*
  • Social Behavior*