Moving research beyond the spanking debate

Child Abuse Negl. 2017 Sep;71:5-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.02.012. Epub 2017 Mar 1.


Despite numerous studies identifying a broad range of harms associated with the use of spanking and other types of physical punishment, debate continues about its use as a form of discipline. In this commentary, we recommend four strategies to move the field forward and beyond the spanking debate including: 1) use of methodological approaches that allow for stronger causal inference; 2) consideration of human rights issues; 3) a focus on understanding the causes of spanking and reasons for its decline in certain countries; and 4) more emphasis on evidence-based approaches to changing social norms to reject spanking as a form of discipline. Physical punishment needs to be recognized as an important public health problem.

Keywords: Physical discipline; Physical punishment; Spanking.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Advocacy / psychology
  • Child Advocacy / trends
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Child Rearing / trends
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Ontario
  • Physical Abuse / prevention & control
  • Physical Abuse / psychology
  • Physical Abuse / trends
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Research*
  • Social Values