The Criminological Theory Of Corporal Punishment

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, corporal punishment can be defined as broadly as “punishment inflicted on a person 's body.” A more thorough description is provided by, however, which uses the definition: “physical punishment, as spanking, inflicted on a child by an adult in authority.” Despite the indistinct line between corporal punishment and abuse, United States federal law allows corporal punishment in both school and home settings. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Ingraham v. Wright that corporal punishment could not be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” as punishment in schools were not the same as criminal punishment (Ingraham v. Wright). It is ultimately left up to the states whether or not to …show more content…
Dr. James Dobson (2015), for example, argues that spanking is natural. This defense of the practice often makes comparisons to a child burning themselves on a hot stove and learning not to touch things that are hot. It argues that sometimes, pain can be a helpful deterrent to teach children to avoid behaviors that have consequences. It uses the criminological theory of deterrence: the idea that increasing the threat of punishment might deter an individual from breaking the rules. The problem with using this theory as a defense of corporal punishment is that there are questions as to whether that works with fully reasoning criminals let alone children. Deterrence theory relies heavily on the idea that crimes are committed by people who have thought rationally about the pros and cons of their actions, which assumes that the frontal lobe is fully developed and able to control impulses and weigh consequences (Barkan and Bryjak 2014). Research has shown, however, that the frontal lobe continues to develop into the 20s, meaning that children within the recommended age group for corporal punishment are not even near able to be properly deterred by threat of punishment (Johnson, Blum, and Geidd 2009). More likely, the short-term ceasing of unwanted behavior will be just that: short-term. Children will find ways to avoid punishment while continuing their impulsive behaviors and will not consider the consequences until they

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