In Scandinavia, anything entailing physical violence against a minor is considered a criminal offense (not misdemeanor). Spanking a child carries the same jailtime as beating an adult half to death. 

I was quite shocked to hear that spanking is not uncommon in the US, in fact it is closer to the norm (correct me if I am wildly misinformed).

Do you think spanking or any physical punishment of a child is ever acceptable?

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A children's mental hospital is a completely different environment than a typical school or a typical home environment. Only a very tiny fraction of children ever go to a children's hospital and when they do it's typically for extreme reasons. A very large fraction of very diverse people send their children to a preschool especially for the pre-k year.


As stated clearly before I don't think most children respond to physical punishment as the typical form of discipline. When children do not respond to typical non-physical forms of discipline a swat here and there to show the child you mean business in not going to do any lasting harm. But of course I'm not going to convince you of anything and you seem to be readily misinterpreting what I'm saying so like Heather did I am going to bow out of discussing this with you.

I can remember left handed children in school in Ireland being berated and mocked by Christian Brothers and nuns. It was definitely common practice pre the 1960’s for more severe punishments to be inflicted, i.e. beating children with leather straps. Anyway, I completely disagree with violence being used on children. The line “it never did me any harm” is a feeble attempt at rationalisation. Children can be disciplined without violence (a gentle slap is violence) i.e. by speaking with them to discuss the issue. If all they require is a “gentle slap” then surely a reasoned talking to is sufficient.

The “sparing the rod to spoil the child” philosophy is puritan bullshit from the dark ages. I cannot think of a good example to justify hitting small children. So if anyone can please reply (or else I get the wooden spoon out)

@ Kris  - I agree, thanks.

I can assure you that I was more harmed by having to listen and watch my parents fighting than I ever was harmed by a spanking. Should parents be jailed for fighting in front of their children?

The definition here is quite simple and there is no need make it more difficult than it really is:

Any act of physical violence intended to cause physical pain as a mean of punishment.

Remove everything else and this is the question up for debate. I purposefully excluded mental violence as it is a different debate.

The question becomes:

1. Ever acceptable or not?

2. If yes, how do you avoid a slippery slope? 

We will have to agree to disagree on 1.

As for the slippery slope, the underlying cause for using physical punishment is because of the assumption that rational explanation will not have effect. If I believe I cannot ration with children, I can therefore resort to violence. If I believe I cannot ration with women/politicians/animals/whatever, I can therefore use the same justification.

It is not a false dictonomy to say that one has two broad options - the use of violence or not. Defending violence by stating there are different levels of violence does not expand the discussion, it only confuses the point. If there is even one functional alternative to violence, and we can presumably agree that violence is a not a preferred means of solution, then why is violence acceptable?

Furthermore, I presume you allow for spanking as a result of disobeyance, then what sort and level of disobeyance would be acceptable to spank for? Should Christian parents be allowed to spank their child if it does not sit still in Church or refuse to read the Bible? Should Atheist parents be allowed to spank their child for not doing their homework?

If I just strawmanned you, please give an example of a situation where you would defend spanking as a means of solution.

Stated as reasonably as possible and very well defines my position. Now good luck dealing with the ranting and raving that comes forth from it.

"This is speculative."

It isn't. There is plenty of evidence. Do you believe all the below studies are inaccurate?

Spanking by parents and subsequent antisocial behavior of children.

Spanking in the home and children's subsequent aggression toward kindergarten peers.

Toward a developmental-contextual model of the effects of parental spanking on children's aggression.

Slapping and spanking in childhood and its association with lifetime prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a general population sample.

Spanking and the making of a violent society.




Frequency is a moot point. If it is justifiable once, then it can be logically extended to be justifiable other times. What would be, according to your view, a frequent or infrequent amount of spanking?

We can agree on once during the whole upbringing being infrequent. But that does not lead to any conclusion as we then can move on to saying twice is also infrequent, as is three times. But what about once a year, once a month, once a week, daily? Where's the line? Without having a clear specification of what determines what is concidered infrequent or frequent your argument does not hold water.

Frequency IS a moot point when the discussion is whether or not its acceptable at all in any circumstance. The only clearly defined frequency is 0 or not 0, and it is also the easiest to prove or disprove.

 "It's not strictly my argument."

It is. Your argument is that it is acceptable sometimes. Clarify your definition of sometimes. Mine would be at most a couple of times per year.

"Most also list self-reporting as a weakness to the studies because it presents various accuracy issues."

This is dealt with in the final paragraph of the methodology section and taken account for when estimating statistical significance. In addition:

"The World Health Organization had carried out field trials of the CIDI and demonstrated good test-retest reliability, interrater reliability and validity of most psychiatric diagnoses except psychoses."

"the vast majority of those spanked do not exhibit the disorders covered in the study."

This is an argumentum ad populum fallacy. Just because not everyone is damaged by spanking is not a justification for it just as not every smoker dying from smokins is not a good argument for smoking.

The conclusion clearly supports that between the choices of spanking and not spanking, not spanking is clearly preferred. Even if I extend the agreement to include the frequency you request, between never, sometimes and often, never is still clearly preferred. If option A is always superior and options B and C are always inferior, why defend B and C? I do not see, under any circumstance, how such a defense can be made in the light of knowledge without major cognitive dissonance.  

"The lifetime prevalence estimates for the 4 categories were highest among respondents who reported being slapped or spanked "often" or "sometimes" and lowest among those who reported "never" experiencing this behaviour. The linear trend analyses showed statistically significant associations between increasing frequency of reported slapping or spanking and increasing rates of lifetime psychiatric disorder."

There is no debate in the scientific community about wheter or not spanking is bad - it clearly is and it has been conqlusively proven in a large amount of studies.

I'll leave you with the Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which only Somalia and the US has not ratified:

Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them. In terms of discipline, the Convention does not specify what forms of punishment parents should use. However any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour – ones that are non-violent, are appropriate to the child's level of development and take the best interests of the child into consideration. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the Convention." 



Moot Point:  "An issue regarded as potentially debatable, but no longer practically applicable. Although the idea may still be worth debating and exploring academically, and such discussion may be useful for addressing similar issues in the future, the idea has been rendered irrelevant for the present issue."

The study concludes that between no spanking and any frequency of spanking there is a linear relationship. Including frequency is therefore not practically applicable to the pertained question, thus the point is moot.

Thank you for the clarification. Though the study did not include severity, any increase in frequency cause an identical increase in psychological disorders. Therefore frequency cannot be used as a justification since anything that increases the probability of an unwanted result is considered undesirable.

You cannot use the weaknesses considered in a study as evidence of the conclusion being weak. Researchers detail the weaknesses as not to be attacked for not considering them. You will either have to provide evidence of weaknesses the study did not incorporate or evidence that the detailed weaknesses are understated in their effect. Studies are based on an assumption that even despite the presented weaknesses, the conclusion holds.

And your argument is an argumentum ad populum fallacy, as it relies on an argumentum ad numerum. Your argument was:  Millions of kids have been spanked and the vast majority have not taken any ill effect. Therefore spanking is not bad. Your claim is the same as saying that because most shaken babies do not get SBS, shaking babies is acceptable.

"You go on to make claims that the scientific community sees the issue as no debate when more than one of the articles you provide state that it is still a matter of contention."

Would this meta-study, the strongest type of study in the social sciences, suffice as evidence for researchers agreeing that corporal punishment has negative side effects? The conclusion is, despite and taken into consideration a large number of caveats:

"The primary conclusion from the meta-analyses of these 88
studies conducted over the last 62 years is that parental corporal
punishment is associated significantly with a range of child behaviors and experiences, including both short- and long-term,
individual- and relationship-level, and direct (physical abuse) and
indirect (e.g., delinquency and antisocial behavior) constructs.
Although it is related with immediate compliance, corporal punishment is associated with 10 undesirable constructs. The effect sizes tended to be medium in size (per J. Cohen, 1988) and were
remarkably consistent—94% of the individual effect sizes represented undesirable behaviors or experiences."

Spanking is definitely a form of physical punishment which is child abuse. The punishment shouldn't be the same for much worse acts of violence; but it definitely is child abuse.


Spanking does NOTHING to teach the child what the root cause of the problem. The child learns that hitting can solve problems and will most likely resort to hitting and some sorts of violence when older. Studies show that spanking does not improve the psychological well being of a child. If raising a kid right, you should be able to have a mutual relationship with them in which you can create psychological components to teach the kid what he or she may have done wrong. When people justify spanking, it is because they either spank their children themselves or were spanked themselves and feel that they "ended up fine". This is not logical or rational and the bottom line is, as atheists we should look at the empirical data rather than basing it on our subjective beliefs and experiences.


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