Should We Ban Spanking?

End of SpankingIn the wake of the Adrian Peterson case, there has been growing awareness that spanking is linked to physical abuse of children.  Some say, Peterson crossed the line, and yet that line is arbitrary based upon personal belief.  The courts can’t even draw a clear line between spanking and abuse, where there has even been a shift to loosen the definition of abuse.  At the same time, there is a shift to clarify the definition of abuse in the child abuse code.  Both Delaware and Pennsylvania have modified the child abuse code.   Delaware modified the child abuse code to include “intent to cause pain,” essentially including spanking as child abuse.  Pennsylvania followed, by declaring forcefully shaking, slapping, or otherwise striking a child under 1 year of age as child abuse.
What is the purpose of banning spanking?

Corporal punishment is the commonest form of violence that children suffer. There are many perspectives from which to condemn it. The imperative for prohibiting and eliminating it is children’s equal human right to full respect for their dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law.

Sometimes it seems that dwelling on other perspectives, other arguments, can actually undermine acceptance of the immediate human rights imperative for action. We don’t look for proof that domestic violence against women damages their physical or mental health in order to justify prohibiting it and ending impunity. It would be insulting to women to do so, and it is equally insulting to children to suggest we have to prove harm in order to justify extending to them the legal protection that we as adults take for granted from being deliberately assaulted.

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.

Sweden was the first nation to ban spanking.

Sweden was the first nation to ban spanking in 1979 and has studied the effects of this legislation for over thirty years.  Emma Kristensson, Rights Specialist, BRIS (Children’s Rights Society) Sweden, and colleagues discuss the ban on spanking in Sweden and the positive effect it has had on the way children are viewed as citizens in their own right. She speaks of shifting from the discussion of parental rights toward children’s inherent human rights. The initial criticism was that it is not possible to legislate against spanking, but that in fact, the ban has had a significant positive effect on decreasing violence against children.


Dr. John Allan, PhD, Child Developmental Psychologist:  Dr. Allan is Professor Emeritus of Counseling Psychology at the University of British Columbia and the author of numerous articles and books on play therapy and school counseling, some of which are translated into Japanese, Russian, Italian and Arabic.  Dr. Allan has more than 45 years clinical experience working with both “typical” children in classrooms and those physically and sexually abused, emotionally neglected and terminally ill.

Nadine Block – Nadine has worked as a teacher, school psychologist and consultant to mental health organizations. She founded the Center for Effective Discipline in l987 and served as its executive director until 2010. The organization is dedicated to ending corporal punishment of children through education and legal reform.

Murray Straus, PhD –  Dr. Straus was the leading researcher on the effects of Corporal Punishment. He was Professor of Sociology and founder and Co-Director of the Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire (since 1968). He 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 – Dr. Gershoff is 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.

Mali Nilson – SWEDEN  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 to promote positive discipline.

Johny O’Donnell –  NEW ZEALAND 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