Should Spanking Be Banned?
Some corporal punishment critics have suggested that the United States government should institute a ban against all physical punishment of children in all settings, including in the home by parents. Such a ban would include all forms of physical punishment, even hand slapping of a toddler and firm squeeze of the hand. They claim that this would reduce child abuse and that it is a basic right of the child. Their argument, however, is primarily based upon opinion and philosophy, and is not scientifically supportable.
How has the ban fared in other countries? Although data is scarce, there appears to have been no decline in physical child abuse, and may have been a subsequent rise in violent behavior among young people.
Sweden – Assaults on Children in Sweden Dr. Robert Larzelere compares his conclusions and the evidence for them with those of Durrant (1999) regarding the “success” of Sweden’s ban on spanking. A more recent critique appears in the Autumn 2001 issue of Families First (page 12) pdf.
Dr. Robert Larzelere responds to Dr. Joan Durrant’s criticisms of his booklet, Sweden’s Smacking Ban: More Harm Than Good, comparing their respective published evaluations of Sweden’s 1979 spanking ban. Dr. Durrant’s data sources indicate an increase in physical child abuse and of criminal assaults by juvenile delinquents since the spanking ban. Although these increases cannot be proven to have been caused by the spanking ban, the increases are real and certainly indicate that violence did not go down after the spanking ban.
Evaluations of the effects of Sweden’s spanking ban on physical child abuse rates: A Literature review. This review concludes, “No studies have demonstrated that the spanking ban has succeeded in reducing Sweden’s rates of child abuse.”
A thorough review of the scientific evidence for or against banning spanking can be found in this review in Law and Contemporary Problems journal titled, Are Spanking Injunctions Scientifically Supported? This document can be found on the Internet.
Dr. Robert Larzelere presents annotated studies documenting the relevant scientific evidence demonstrating that there is no sound scientific evidence to support anti-spanking bans. This lack of evidence is a crucial issue when expanding prohibited types of corporal punishment from physical abuse to even the mildest forms of spanking or slapping a preschooler’s hand.
National Review produced an 2008 article of the topic of a spanking ban titled, The Truth About Spanking.