Prohibition and elimination of all corporal punishment is an immediate obligation under international human rights law. It is not necessary to prove it is harmful or prevalent in order to justify law reform and other measures to ensure children are not subjected to it. Nevertheless, research can pay a key role in making the problem visible, in achieving attitudinal and behavioural change and in assessing the success of efforts to implement prohibiting legislation. See the links below for further information.
The evidence that corporal punishment is harmful to children, adults and societies is overwhelming. The more than 250 studies included in the Global Initiative’s review of research on the impact of and associations with corporal punishment show links between corporal punishment and a wide range of negative outcomes, including:
- direct physical harm
- negative impacts on mental and physical health
- poor moral internalisation and increased antisocial behaviour
- increased aggression in children
- increased violent and criminal behaviour in adults
- damaged education
- damaged family relationships
- increased acceptance and use of other forms of violence
Intended for use by advocates for prohibition, the review illuminates how corporal punishment violates not just children’s right to freedom from all violence, but also their rights to health, development and education. It is available in both full and summary forms.
The Global Initiative monitors research on the positive impact of prohibiting corporal punishment and other measures taken to reduce its use, and has prepared a paper, The positive impact of prohibition of corporal punishment on children’s lives: messages from research. The paper summarises research showing reductions in the approval and use of corporal punishment in some countries which have reformed their laws to prohibit all corporal punishment of children.
Research into the prevalence of corporal punishment of children and into societies' attitudes towards it can be useful in supporting rights-based measures aimed at prohibiting and eliminating all violent punishment in childrearing and education. It makes the issue visible, challenging claims by some governments that it is not a problem, and it provides a benchmark for measuring the success of efforts to implement prohibiting legislation and eliminate corporal punishment in practice. When the research directly involves children, it helps to give them a voice, exposing what happens to them in schools and in the privacy of their own homes.
Prevalence/attitudinal research published in the last ten years is summarised in reports on every state and territory under the research tab of the individual countries.