To raise a child of any age comes with many difficulties for caregivers. Most parents strive towards raising children that are responsible, independent and respectable. There are a few schools of thought to disciplining children. One may be to apply discipline by teaching and the other to physically discipline a child as a means to correcting inappropriate behaviors. The Encarta Concise English dictionary defines discipline as “To teach somebody to obey rules or to behave in an ordered or controlled way” (“Discipline,” 2001, p. 409). Physical discipline is based on the use of fear as the motivator to changing a child’s behavior. “Behaviors that do not result in significant physical injury (i.e. spank, slap) are considered corporal punishment, whereas behaviors that risk injury (i.e. punching, kicking, burning) are considered physical abuse” (Gershoff, 2002) Parents who use either form of physical discipline with children need to understand the damaging effects it can have on a child’s emotional, moral and social development.
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A child’s self esteem is developed through caregivers offering encouragement, acknowledgement and nurturing their range of emotions. “Recognition of emotion is particularly important because it represents the early utilization of social cues on which children’s subsequent interpretation and behavioral responses will depend.” (Cicchetti, Hormung, Pollak, & Reed, 2000, p. 680) Using physical discipline as the motivator for altering a child’s behavior affects their emotional stability. “Being slapped or spanked is a frightening and threatening event that arouses strong negative emotions such as humiliation, sadness, and anger.”(Straus, 2005, p.145) The use of punitive measures is in direct opposition to what disciplining is meant to achieve and may affect a child’s development. “They may be slow to reach milestones in social and physical development.” (Crosson-Tower, 2004, p.191) Physical discipline affects the child’s feelings of acceptance and they tend to respond with destructive impulses, rather than positive responses. “Children and adults reared in abuse have had their senses trained in such a way that to use them for receiving or transmitting positive messages is not part of their communications system.” (Helfer, 1980, p.38) Parents and caregivers need to help the child develop self confidence, self reliance and self discipline. Children who recognize self efficacy by being offered simple choices begin to develop moral insight.
Discipline, whether positive or negative, develops a child’s perception of themselves and defines their moral understanding of how they should behave. A child who learns hitting is acceptable may be confused, because in many other areas of their life; school, daycare and recreational activities, hitting is unacceptable. It is in direct contradiction to what they learn at home which in turn becomes a value. In addition, children exposed to physical discipline are more susceptible to becoming abusers themselves (Newman, 1993). Parents who are not armed with the proper parenting tools become frustrated and angry about controlling their children’s behavior. Straus (2005) says, spanking has roots in two cultural myths; one, spanking is okay if done by a loving parent and two, spanking will work if all other methods of discipline fail (p. 140-141). Parent’s who understand their children’s ability to internalize all discipline measures, also realize they are developing their children’s values. “Children’s internalization of morals is thought to be enhanced by parental discipline strategies that use, minimal parental power, promote choice and autonomy and provide explanations for desirable behaviors” (Gershoff, 2002, p. 1) The short term consequences of physical discipline will undermine the child’s developing moral understanding and further debilitates their social development.
The expression of abuse with a physically disciplined child becomes apparent when their interaction reveals itself by their behavior with other children. A child who is physically disciplined at home is traumatized. A study conducted by Marin & Beezly (1977) suggests that children were more alert to their environment and cautious of peripheral danger around them (p. 375). Therefore, the resulting animosity that has built up is misdirected to whomever the child comes into contact with outside of the home which is usually learning centers such as schools. In a research study conducted by Eckenroder, Doris & Laird (1993) reporting’s on pre-school children demonstrated that children who have been physically disciplined showed aggressiveness and were more likely to be disciplined from teachers than children who have not been mistreated (p.54). Children who are unable to cope with their pent-up aggression react in a negative way in the school environment. “For the abused child, the lack of social responsiveness becomes more striking.” (Tower, 2002, p. 49)
The physically disciplined child who matures and enters high school with multiple disturbed behaviors reveals other social and psychological impairments. “Insecure attachments to their mothers, lower intelligence scores, impaired language development, lower levels of cognitive maturity and effectance motivation, more negative affect and less positive effect, less pro-social behavior, and more aggressive and non-compliant behavior.” (Eckenroder, Doris and Laird. 1993. p.57). Therefore, the initial bond between child and parent is vital in the development of the child. “A strong child-to-parent bond is important because children are more likely to accept parental restrictions and follow parental standards if there is a bond of affection with the parent.” (Straus, 2005, p. 146). If the trust is diminished from their primary source, namely the communication between parent and child, the bond and relationship is strained. Thus, a child’s friendship with other children, siblings and even family members are greatly affected which causes anxiety with the child.
In summation, the raising of children presents many challenges for caregivers. The goal of raising children to be responsible, independent and respectable individuals is an arduous task. In the teaching method of disciplining, a goal is to strengthen self discipline and personal control so that caregivers relieve themselves of parenting by the time the offspring leaves home. To reach these goals, parents must make sure their children learn the skills involved in problem solving and making decisions. Conversely, correcting inappropriate behaviors by physically disciplining children have long term consequences which will greatly hinder the child’s development as they mature. The short term results of physical discipline on a child’s development manifests long term effects, characterized by low self esteem coupled with morals which contradict the values of society.
Beezly, P., & Harold Martin, P. (1997, June). Behavioural observations of abused children.
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 19, 373-387. Retrieved from
A behavioural observation of abused children is an article derived from Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, written by Patricia Beezly and Harold Martin. The article focus on how children’s development is directly affected by being physically disciplined by their parents or caregivers. The authors appear to support the claim that children should not be physically discipline by using case studies and statistics.
Cicchetti, D., Hormung, K., Pollak, S. D., & Reed, A. (2000). Recognizing emotion in faces:
Developmental effects of child abuse and neglect. Developmental Psychology, 36(5),
677-688. Retrieved from http://psych.wisc.edu/pollak/pdfs/recognizing_emotion_faces_devpsych.pdf.
This article is a study by Cicchetti, Hormung, Pollak and Reed with the hypothesis being the lack of recognizing certain emotions as a direct correlation to physical discipline. Utilizing social cues and how the child interprets and responds to them is important for their development and further predicates the child’s familiarity of negative environments. The writer understands the premise however the stats seemed weak in respects to differentiating between normal treated children and physically disciplined children, yet clearly neglected children showed the least responsiveness to the tests. Nevertheless, the outcome supports the paper in regards to physical discipline affecting the physicality of children to their reaction of emotions.
Crosson-Tower, C., (2004). Exploring child welfare: A Practice Perspective. Pearson
Cynthia Crosson-Tower, examines the protection of children in chapter 7 titled Protecting Children When Families Cannot-Child Abuse and Neglect. Her premise, “non accidental injury inflicted on a child” defines the quintessential meaning of physical abuse to children. In reference to the paper, the writer needed to support the argument of physical discipline being detrimental to the development of childhood milestones.
Discipline. (2001). Encarta concise english dictionary. London.
The definition of the word “Discipline” was found in the Encarta Concise English Dictionary. The relevance of the term being added to the research paper is so the reader has an accurate meaning of the conveyed idea.
Eckenroder, J., Doris, J., & Laird, M. (1993). School performances and disciplinary problems
Among abused and neglected children. Development Psychology, 29(1), 53-62. Retrieved from http:// http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00121649.
Eckenroder, Laird and Doris ascertained data from a school and examined stats from kindergarten to grade 12 in their study. The study, for instance revealed the personalities of pre-schoolers as aggressive and requiring more attention from the teachers. The writer found the study helpful to the paper in supporting that physical discipline is exposed upon contact with learning centers such as daycares and schools.
Gershoff, E. T. ( 2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated behaviors and
Experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128 (4), 539-579. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.539
This review paper by Gershoff anticipates the use of physical discipline or corporal punishment as detrimental to child behaviors and experiences as relative to pain. The review was helpful in defining how the study differentiated between corporal punishment and physical abuse, yet the bias was supported by Gershoff’s findings.
Kemp, C.H. & Helfer, R.E. (Eds.) (1980). The Battered Child (3rd. Ed.). Chicago:University of
In chapter 3 titled Developmental Deficits Which Limit Interpersonal Skills, of the text The Battered Child, Ray Helfer explores how senses vital to our development can be affected by abuse. Senses are developed by the child’s environment and when these external forces are not positive and safe the child suppresses and mutes their own development. Helfer’s focal points on interpersonal skills such as delayed gratification, responsibility, decision making, problem solving, trusting others, feelings and action are affected by childhood deficits.
Newman, F. (1993). Children in Crisis. Scholastic Canada.
Children in Crisis, is a book written by Fran Newman. It covers topics on different types of child abuse, precipitating factors to the events leading to abuse and the impact on family dynamics. This book was somewhat helpful, although the focus appeared to be more on family structure and values, rather than how child abuse directly affects a child’s self esteem and other developmental stages.
Straus, M.A. (2005). Children should never, ever, be spanked no matter what the circumstances.
In D. R. Loseke, R. J. Gelles & M. M Cavanaugh (Eds.), Current Controversies about
Family Violence (2nd ed., 137-157). Thousand Oak, CA: Sage. Retrieved from
This article written by Murray Straus was located through Google Scholar’s search engine. The author presented relevant and accurate information on the topic of child development and the ineffectiveness of physical discipline on children. Although the article was interesting, the use of language and vocabulary may present an entry level university student with great difficulty when attempting to read and retain the information.
Tower, C. (2002). Understanding child abuse and neglect. ( 5th ed.). Boston, MA: USA
Cynthia Crosson-Towers in chapter 3 Maltreatment and the Developing Child, studies early childhood development. Infants that have not had the stimuli of care do not reach the required milestones outlined for that age. Milestones, as a standard measurement for development has shown that it is vital that children reach each phase and move onto the next phase for proper development. The material covered in the text was succinct and clear for the understanding of childhood development.
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