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Corporal Punishment

A primary focus of No Hit Zones is to raise awareness and educate caregivers of children on the numerous health risks associated with the use of physical punishment on children. Healthy child development and learning is supported through safe and effective discipline that does not involve hitting as a form of punishment. Corporal Punishment or Physical Punishment is defined as the use of some form of physical pain in response to an undesirable behavior. Physical punishment includes spanking a child with the hand or object.


Learn more about the effects and risk factors associated with the use of corporal punishment on children at Center for Effective Discipline's (CED) website.


American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the use of physical punishment to discipline children.1 Parents should be informed of the risk associated with hitting a child as punishment and receive support in learning safe, healthy and effective discipline alternatives.

According to the research, corporal punishment increases the risk of harm to a child’s overall development. A meta-analysis2 that reviewed of more than 36,000 individuals and 88 studies identified a relationship among corporal punishment (including spanking) and:

  • Increased aggression and delinquent behaviors
  • Decreased supportive parent-child relationships
  • Decreased child mental health
  • Increased physical abuse of children
  • Increased adult aggression and criminal behaviors
  • Decreased adult mental health
  • Increased risk of abusing spouse or child as an adult

Corporal punishment may seem to stop problematic behavior in the moment; however, the use of corporal punishment does not promote long-term learning or build necessary childhood skills to effectively self-manage. The use of physical punishment, such as spanking, is often a reactive response of adult frustration or anger.

Even with research strongly pointing to corporal punishment as a risk factor for increased physical, mental, and emotional health problems, the practice of spanking a child as discipline remains an accepted practice.

  • 76% of men and 65% of women in the United States agree with giving a child a “good, hard spanking” as a form of punishment3
  • Center for Effective Discipline reports 19 states in the United States still have laws that permit school personnel to administer corporal punishment to students in public schools4

No Hit Zone programs provide an effective strategy to raise awareness, build skills, and advocate for health child development through discipline that does not involve hitting. Four Strategies for Change used in No Hit Zones have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing favorable attitudes regarding corporal punishment.
Strategies for influential change include:

  • Provide Information
  • Promote Safe Places
  • Build Skills of Caregivers and Professionals
  • Policy

We all play a role in promoting the well-being of the kids and families in our communities. Sign up to join our collaborative No Hit Zone initiative and we will help you become a No Hit Zone!


1Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (1998). Guidance for effective discipline. Pediatrics, 101, 4, 723- 728.

2Gershoff, E. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and the associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. American Psychological Association, 128, 539-579.

3Child Trends Databank. (2015). Attitudes toward spanking. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/51_Attitudes_Toward_Spanking.pdf

4Center for Effective Discipline. (2016). Discipline at school. Retrieved from http://www.gundersenhealth.org/ncptc/center-for-effective-discipline/discipline-at-school

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