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Comparative Analysis of the Corporal Punishment of Children: An Exploration of Human Rights and U.S. Law

NCJ Number
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice Volume: 29 Issue: 2 Dated: Fall 2005 Pages: 173-200
Lucien X. Lombardo; Karen A. Polonko
Date Published
28 pages
This study compared two perspectives on adult-child relationships in terms of their positions on corporal punishment: a human rights perspective and a traditional perspective reflected in United States law.
The main argument is the traditional perspective regarding corporal punishment that is reflected in U.S. law is harmful to children and communities and should be abandoned for a human rights perspective that condemns the use of violence against children. Research indicates that corporal punishment does not work, and even worse, has a host of negative consequences for children and society. Children who suffer corporal punishment are more likely to suffer from depression and to have decreased empathy as children and adults. Corporal punishment remains legal under traditional U.S. legal doctrine and perpetuates an oppressive and harmful adult-child relationship. A human rights perspective, on the other hand, begins with the assumption that every human has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. The notion of using corporal punishment on a child is soundly rejected from a human rights perspective because every human has the right to live a life free of violence and oppression. Instead, a human rights perspective emphasizes the collective responsibility of communities to nurture and protect children and to strengthen children’s links to family and communities. The authors address the nature of and reasons for the differences between the two perspectives, focusing on the absence of human rights principles as a foundation for U.S. law, the failure to link corporal punishment and violence in the law, and the persistence of a colonial model of adult-child relationships that relies on dominance and control. The authors drew on legal statutes, court decisions, and human rights conventions as source materials, and they present legislation and case law that reflect each perspective. Tables, notes, references


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