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Corporal Punishment-Perceptions and consequences

Introduction

  • Children are subject to corporal punishment in schools; institutions meant for care and protection of children such as hostels, orphanages, ashram shalas, and juvenile homes; and even in the family setting. Prevalence of Corporal Punishment is evident from a various research studies and by media reporting it both in print and electronic. Many cases of Corporal Punishment have been reported by enlightened teachers.  A large number of them, however, go unnoticed due to lack of concern and acceptance.
  • Documentary evidence points to the persistence of discrimination based on social, economic, linguistic and religious identities inside the school. Discrimination based on disability and illness/disease has also been reported.
  • It is also reported that psychological aggression (i.e., controlling or correcting behaviour that causes the child to experience psychological pain) is more pervasive than spanking and physical punishment.

Perception

  1. Punishing children is regarded as normal and acceptable in all settings – whether in the family or in institutions. It is often considered necessary in order that children grow up to be competent and responsible individuals.
  2. It is widely used by teachers and parents regardless of its evident lack of effectiveness, and potentially deleterious side-effects. Its very ineffectiveness tends to result in an escalation spiral which then leads to both a culture of rationalisation by those in authority and passive acceptance of the situation as evidence of ‘caring’ by children.
  3. So pervasive is the justification of corporal punishment that a child may not think her/his rights have been infringed upon. Even if the punishment hurts, the child does not feel the importance of reporting the incident.
  4. Therefore there are layers of beliefs and practices that cloak corporal punishment under the guise of love, care and protection, when it is actually an abuse of authority that harms the child. This follows from the belief that those in whose care children are entrusted in school or other institutions are ‘in loco parentis’ and will therefore always act in the interests of the child. This notion needs to be reviewed in the light of the widespread violence that exists in all institutions occupied by children.

Possible reasons for persistence of corporal punishment

  1. One of the major reasons why corporal punishment persists is that most of us find it difficult to differentiate and understand that it is different from “discipline.” While corporal punishment seeks to stop a child from behaving in a certain way, positive discipline techniques can be used to make a child understand and learn desirable/acceptable behaviour without the fear of punishment.
  2. Another major reason is that teachers are often not taught to think and reflect during their professional training, why children misbehave and how to discipline them in a positive manner. Their behaviours have to form the basis for a teacher's strategies . Many a times, when a child feels his or her needs are not being met, such as the need for attention, he or she misbehaves. The frustration that child’s misbehaviour causes, and lack of skills to handle it, makes many of the teachers strike out at children and use corporal punishment physical, verbal, mental or other forms of emotional punishment.

Long-term consequences of corporal punishment

  • It is now globally recognised that punishment in any form or kind in school comes in the way of the development of the full potential of children.
  • When adults use corporal punishment it teaches their children that hitting is an acceptable means of dealing with conflict. The more children are hit, the more is the anger they report as adults and consequently the more they hit their own children when they are parents, and the more likely they are to approve of hitting.
  • Corporal punishment leads to adverse physical, psychological and educational outcomes – including increased aggressive and destructive behaviour, increased disruptive behaviour in the classroom, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased drop-out rate, school avoidance and school phobia, low selfesteem, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, suicide and retaliation against teachers – that emotionally scar the children for life.
  • Children subjected to punishment prefer aggressive conflict resolution strategies with peers and siblings and they do not consider it a violation of their rights.
  • There is an association between corporal punishment meted out to children and maladaptive behaviour patterns in later life, such as aggression and delinquency.
  • The effects of various forms of mental harassment or psychological maltreatment have shown that
    • Combinations of verbal abuse and emotional neglect tend to produce the most powerfully negative outcomes;
    • Psychological maltreatment is a better predictor of detrimental developmental outcomes for young children than the severity of physical injury experienced by them;
    • It is the indicator most related to behaviour problems for children and adolescents; and
    • Psychological abuse is a stronger predictor of both depression and low self-esteem than physical abuse.
  • A chronic pattern of psychological maltreatment destroys a child’s sense of self and personal safety.
  • Subtle and overt forms of discrimination are also known to have a negative effect on the emotional and intellectual health of children.
  • In recognition of the harmful consequences of corporal punishment on the child, the General Comment on corporal punishment stated that, “There is no ambiguity: ‘all forms of physical or mental violence’ does not leave room for any level of legalized violence against children. Corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment are forms of violence and States must take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to eliminate them.”

Source: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights



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