Yes, of course it does! It hurts physically and emotionally. It hurts physically and emotionally. Through research being carried out all over the world, children are beginning to tell us how much corporal punishment hurts them. The UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children, completed in 2006, was the first comprehensive global study into the nature and extent of the problem. The Independent Expert leading the Study, Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, wrote in the report:
"Throughout the study process, children have consistently expressed the urgent need to stop all this violence. Children testify to the hurt – not only physical, but ‘the hurt inside’ – which this violence causes them, compounded by adult acceptance, even approval of it.
Governments need to accept that this is indeed an emergency, although it is not a new emergency. Children have suffered violence at the hands of adults unseen and unheard for centuries. But now that the scale and impact of violence against children is becoming visible, they cannot be kept waiting any longer for the effective protection to which they have an unqualified right."
Causing physical pain to a child is itself a breach of children’s right to protection from assault – and adults often don’t appreciate the difference in size and strength between them and a child, and the impact that this difference can have on the intended and actual physical pain felt by the child. Large scale research in which parents have been asked about the force used when “smacking” their child found that two in five had used a different degree of force than intended (Kirwaun, S. & Bassett, C. (2008), Presentation to NSPCC: Physical punishment, British Market Research Bureau/National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). And research by the Institute of Psychiatry and University College London proved that changes in brain activity when force is used in tit-for-tat situations naturally lead to escalation in the degree of force used and inaccuracy in judging how much force is being used (Shergill, S. S. et al (2003), “Two eyes for an eye: The neuroscience of force escalation”, Science, vol. 301, 11 July 2003, p. 187).
In addition, adults often don’t appreciate the emotional hurt caused by corporal punishment, its impact on the dignity of the child, and the potential short- and long-term damage this can have on individuals and society. The Global Initiative is aware of over 250 studies on the effects of corporal punishment which associate it with a wide range of negative health, developmental and behavioural outcomes for children that can follow them into adulthood – this includes poor mental health, poor cognitive development, lower school grades, increased aggression, poor moral regulation and increased antisocial behaviour (read our summary of research on the negative effects of corporal punishment).