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Child corporal punishment: Spanking

Linking serious punishment of children
with rage & crimes during adulthood

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Dr Ralph S. Welsh is a:

bullet Diplomate in Clinical Psychology.
bullet Court-Based Assessment Psychologist in Danbury, CT.
bullet Contributor to the American Psychological Association's  Task force on Violence. 1
bullet Member of the Advisory Board of The Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Issues in the Schools, at Temple University, PA. 2

He has evaluated over 3,000 juveniles over his multi-decade career and has observe a strong linkage between heavy corporal punishment during childhood and both rage and criminal activity during early adulthood.

He notes that he has:

"... yet to see the first violent male juvenile delinquent who wasn't raised on a belt, board, extension cord, fist or the equivalent. I have carefully excluded all forms of discipline that were incapable of causing lasting physical marks or damage including hand slaps, hands to the rear, and even a switch to the legs. I am still amazed at the consistency of the 'belt' and its equivalents in producing angry and violent behavior." 3

Having the courage to put his money where his mouth was, he challenged his juvenile court's probation officers. He offered them $100.00 if they could find an aggressive male juvenile delinquent who hand not been raised on "the belt." The catch was that if they referred a youth who they thought had childhood free of serious parental violence but who actually was disciplined by "the belt," the officer would have to pay Dr. Welsh $1.00. They all lost interest in the challenge when their accumulated losses reached $20.00.

As a result of years of research, he discovered that:

bullet Beatings stop at a later age for girls than for boys.
bullet Beatings stop earlier for larger children.
bullet Developmentally challenged individuals are often beaten throughout their entire life.
bullet Mothers who beat their children, and were not beaten themselves as children, feel guilty; those who were beaten as children do not.
bullet Women who are beaten tend to marry men who beat them.

He has observed a strong link between child beating and criminal activity later in life. This finding may help verify the results of a New Zealand study that showed that about one third of boys have a genetic predisposition that cause adult criminal activity if they are abused as children. Dr. Walsh concludes:

"In short, all of the data suggests that corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique is very dangerous, is the MAJOR contributor to our crime rate, and tends to perpetuate itself. ..."

"Physical punishment discourages learning, and encourages retaliation toward the parent and society in general because the abused person often rejects the societal values of the punishing parent; it produces behavioral variability since it does not identify the "desired" behaviors so it rarely produces the behavior the punisher is looking for. Finally, it produces a delayed-action affect, and this lag is critical in masking the relationship between the punishment and later aggression. ... Because of this time lag, the anger engendered by the punishment is not readily perceived to be related to the long-gone punishment situation. ... Therefore, neither the user of corporal punishment, nor the recipient of corporal punishment realize that the punishment is the sleeper fuel that is slowly building up aggression in the recipient of the abuse."

"In the end, when the over punished child becomes a parent, this badly programmed individual emulates his/her parents, and repeats the abusive cycle taught to them by their own troubled but "well meaning' abusive parents, and the abuse continues on to the next generation." 2

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Violence & Youth," American Psychological Association's Commission on Violence and Youth, 1993, at:
  2. Ralph S. Welsh, "Should Paddling be Banned in Schools?,"  Letter to the editor of TeenNewsWeek, 2001-MAY-14, at:
  3. Ralph S. Welsh, "The Dangers Associated With Hitting Children," Project NoSpank, 2007-JUN, at:

Other articles by Dr. Ralph S. Welsh:

Doing a Google search for ralph welsh spanking returned about 2,410 hits. Some were:

bullet A menu linked to ten essays is at:
bullet "Research does not lie," Email to the Dallas ISD, 2003-AUG-12, at:
bullet "Rod is the spoiler," Science News, 2006-AUG-05, at:
bullet "No surprise," Letter to the Editor, Science News, 2003-DEC-06, at:
bullet "Spanking: a grand old American tradition?," Children Today, 1985-Jan/Feb, at:"
bullet "The beaten may become beaters," Recovery Anonymous, at:

Copyright ? 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-JUN-17
Latest update: 2007-JUN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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