Documentary Footage, More

How do Children Experience Spanking?

What Do Researchers Say About Spanking?

What is the Purpose of Law Reform?

Peter Newell makes a compelling argument that the basic right of the individual to be protected by law from all acts of physical harm should naturally extend to children.

How Do We Help Parents?

Asadah talks about the importance of asking parents about their history of violence so we can better understand why they spank….

What about the Youth Perspective?

Johny O’Donnell, founder of Students Against Violence Everywhere – Breaking the Cycle of Abuse…

Should We Ban Spanking in the US?

Researchers, child psychologists, representatives from Sweden and New Zealand, and child activists in the US talk about the purpose of banning spanking in the home.

Asadah Kirkland

Asadah is a mother, teacher, author, and child rights activist.  Her book, “Beating Black Kids,” won 1st Place in the International Book Award of the Year, in the Category of African-American Studies.  She will be a speaker at the upcoming Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment.

Peter Newell

Peter is Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children ( and Adviser to the European Network of Ombudspeople for Children. He was a member of Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro’s Editorial Board for the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children and co-chairs the international NGO Advisory Council for follow-up to the UNSG’s Study. He is co-author of UNICEF’s Handbook on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Peter has worked as a consultant for UNICEF advising on general measures for implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Mali Nilsson

Ms. Nilsson is a Senior Advisor with Save the Children, Sweden.  She has worked extensively in the international efforts to stop violent forms of discipline and promote positive discipline.

Johny O’Donnell

Johny is the Founder of
In March 2009 he and two friends embarked on a journey that created the nationwide movement- Students Against Violence Everywhere.  A youth led anti-violence movement that aims to raise awareness of violence by spreading positive change in our schools, homes and communities.
To find out more about SAVE visit

Murray Straus, PhD

Dr. Straus is the leading researcher on the effects of Corporal Punishment.  He is Professor of Sociology and founder and Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire (since 1968).  Previously taught at the Univ of Minnesota, Cornell, Wisconsin, Washington State, U of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Visiting Professor: U. of Kentucky, U. Bombay (India), U. of York (England), Columbia Univ, U. of Leuven Belgium

Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD

Professor of Human Develoment and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin.  Dr. Gershoff is a developmental psychologist who studies how parenting generally and discipline in particular affect children’s development.  She is interested in how parenting affects children differently within contexts of poverty and low income, neighborhoods, schools, and culture. She is also interested in associations between children’s exposures to various forms of violence (from parents, communities, and terrorism) and their mental health and risk behaviors.

Project Description

A Rampant Problem That Affects Most Children

  • 88 million Americans experience physical abuse as children
  • Spanking can escalate into more severe child abuse
  • Most child physical abuse cases begin with physical punishment

In the ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES STUDY (ACEs) conducted by CDC and Kaiser Health Plan with over 17,000 adults, 29% reported being victims of physical abuse in childhood.  This extrapolates to nearly 88 million Americans suffering from childhood physical abuse.  Washington State ACEs, 29% students were exposed to physical violence and 13% were exposed to physical violence and adult to adult abuse.  We know that 67 – 85% of child abuse cases reportedly begin as an attempt to discipline the child using corporal punishment.  We also know that research clearly links spanking to increased aggression, behavioral problems, lower IQ, adolescent drug & alcohol abuse, and suicide.  Neuroscience suggests that spanking may even interfere with normal development of the child’s brain.  These problems extend well into adulthood.  Experts in the field of Childhood Abuse and Neglect conclude that “ultimate control of the abuse problem lies in changing our societal attitudes towards and acceptance of aggression as appropriate mechanism for problem solving.”  Many leading scholars have concluded that reducing corporal punishment is essential to reducing physical abuse.

Early Traumatic Experiences Impact Health into Adulthood

Research recognizes spanking as hitting on a continuum of violence against children and a precursor to most child physical abuse reports.  The ACE Study shows a strong and cumulative link between physical abuse and adult health problems including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, liver disease, and poor self-rated health.  The ACE Study recommends primary prevention of adverse childhood experiences that will “ultimately require societal changes that improve the quality of family environments during childhood.”

The Current Situation: Almost All Toddlers are Spanked in America

Professional Associations discourage spanking.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 19 prohibits spanking.  Yet, despite professional warning, 65% Americans still approve of spanking.  We know parents are more likely to spank if they

1.  Were physically punished as children themselves,

2.  Are socially or economically disadvantaged,

3.  Are under 30 years old,

4.  Belong to a community that condones spanking, or

5.  Have a preschool age child.

Spanking is an international problem.  Twenty-nine countries including Germany, Spain and even Tunisia have banned on spanking in the home in conjunction with educational support for parents.  Sweden banned spanking in 1979 and preliminary data indicates:

1.  Reduction in spanking (only 3% parents under age 30 support spanking)

2.  Decrease in adolescent drug and alcohol abuse

3.  Reduced adolescent suicide

Documentary Film Can Change Social Acceptance of Spanking

Documentary film has the power to question social norms in an objective, nonjudgmental way. “Food Matters”, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” and “Supersize Me,” helped people question their dependency upon processed food. The Oscar winning documentary, “Harlan County USA” helped people understand the mistreatment of coal miners, which in turn helped improve their conditions. “Bowling for Columbine” helped a traumatized public come to grips with a national crisis, by investigating how the violent rampage was imbedded within the cultural environment.

There is considerable research to show that education on spanking changes the way parents view discipline.[1] Because a change in social acceptance of spanking is necessary to end the practice, a group of passionate filmmakers, researchers and child advocates has assembled to create a documentary that can do just that.  Our film will examine the long-term effects of early childhood violence and will portray alternative ways to discipline.  We will interview parents, young children, and youth in the juvenile justice system.  The documentary will interview professionals who work with children and are involved in current research on child development.  Production of the documentary has already begun with interviews from a variety of leaders in this effort:

  • Dr. Murray Straus and Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, top researchers on corporal punishment, explain the broad reaching impact of corporal punishment on a child’s development;
  • Asadah Kirkland, an African American parenting educator working in the projects of Brooklyn, shares her perspective as a parent and a parenting educator in working with many different families;
  • Mali Nilsson, Chair of the International Alliance Task Group on Corporal/Physical Punishment, Save the Children, Sweden, shares Sweden’s methods for changing public approval of spanking;
  • Johny O’Donnell, founder of Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), speaks about violence against children from a teen’s perspective

To broaden the audiences who find that the documentary resonates with them, we will interview a range of individuals that reflect different demographics and perspectives. However, the primary intended audience is parents who are at greatest risk for spanking.  We are focusing on parents:

  • under age 30,
  • who have young children,
  • are of low socio-economic status (making it more likely that they will watch a movie than read a child-rearing book),
  • who have likely been spanked themselves, and
  • who live in communities where spanking is condoned.

[1] Prevalence, Societal Causes, and Trends in Corporal Punishment by Parents in World Perspective,” Murray Straus, PhD, Volume 73, #2, Spring 2010;

2 Responses to Documentary Footage, More

  1. Laura Strom says:

    This is a wonderful film clip. Peter Newell comes across as compassionate, heart-felt, and entirely reasonable in his position. Excellent work!

  2. Each child and family is unique. Possibly the researchers you speak of are more interested in offering alternatives because of how punishment can be such a slippery slope. Not all kids grow up feeling like their parents’ warmth was well received in the context of such parenting methods. Since punishment can have negative effects, and there are viable alternatives that don’t violate children, researchers may be working to provide information that will inspire people to look at all of their choices instead of cling tightly to that which has the potential to harm. This is one study that shows a mother’s warmth doesn’t necessarily undo the harmful effects of spanking… Even more than research, though, our life experience is the greatest motivator to look at these issues and make decisions that align with our values and the ways we uniquely want to steward our children.

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