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Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About its Effects on Children

NCJ Number
Elizabeth T. Gershoff Ph.D.
Date Published
57 pages
This report examined previous research that explored the effects of physical punishment on children the United States.
Major findings in this report indicate that previous research has shown that physical punishment has not been shown to improve children's behavior in the long term; physical punishment makes it more likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future; physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased mental health problems; and children who are physically punished are at a greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse. The main purpose of this report was to provide a concise review of research findings examining the effect of physical punishment on children. The report is intended for use by parents, caregivers, policymakers, and professionals who provide services to children and their families. The review of over 100 years of social science research indicates that there are few positive and many negative potential impacts of physical punishment on children. Topics covered in this report include an examination of physical punishment, the use and approval of physical punishment in the United States, risk factors and effects of physical punishment, and how physical punishment of children is a human rights issue. Recommendations for reducing the use of physical punishment are included in the report. Appendixes and references