“Spare the rod and spoil the child” is an old adage describing how important physical punishment used to be during that time period to discipline a child. The ancient human excavations showed physical punishment dished out to children and has been used throughout antiquity. During old Jewish period, 1500 years ago, children were punished severely even to the extent of death. Even today millions of children face corporal punishment inflicted upon them either at home or at school.

Physical punishment is often referred to as corporal punishment. According to Straus et al. (1998), corporal punishment is defined as the use of physical force to inflict pain in disciplining the children or controlling a child’s undesirable and unappealing behavior, not injruy. Other more recent names for corporal punishment include smacking and spanking.

Itsimmediate aim is to halt the offense, prevent the recurrence and set an example for others. Its long term goal is to change the child’s behavior so it becomes more consistent with the adult’s expectation. The adult does this by slapping, pushing, kicking or smacking the child. Most common is usually hitting various parts of the child’s body either by bare hands, canes, sticks or any other object expected to cause pain and fear.

Samreen-Masud-120x150Ms. Samreen Masud is currently serving as a Clinical Psychologist at Willing Ways Lahore. She has done her M.Phil in Clinical Psychology from Kinnaird College for Women, Lahore and her BSc. Hons in Applied Psychology from Kinnaird College as well. She has the experience of working as an intern at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center. There she became expert in counseling and relaxation techniques working with cancer patients both adults and children.

Editor: Zara Qasim

Often corporal punishment is confused with physical maltreatment and child abuse. Physical maltreatment and abuse usually refers to the use of physical force to inflict pain, and injury on the child, which crosses the boundaries provided in law. Hence the degree of pain is a lot more and the effect is more negative and long-lasting.


In this essay, however, we will discuss the trends, beliefs, perceptions, factors and effects of corporal punishment and also whether it is an effective disciplinary technique for parents to use.

Although it is a common assumption that corporal punishment is practiced more frequently in under-developed or developing countries, almost all parents globally use ‘spanking’ and other forms of physical punishments on their children. According to the National Family Violence Survey conducted in the United States of America in 1975 and 1978, 90% of Americans were practicing corporal punishment. In another study it was found that a very high proportion of youth reported being physically punished in the U.S Virgin Island. Similarly research suggests that corporal punishment is frequently used in slightly less developed countries like Brazil, Spain and Sri Lanka and also in under developed countries like Pakistan.