Ending Corporal Punishment of Children: A New Report

Causing pain to children is degrading and harmful—to everyone.


  • Corporal punishment has long-term negative consequences for children and society.
  • Whereas worldwide virtually every adult has legal protection from assault, only 13% of children do.
  • Children are more vulnerable to harm but get less protection than adults from assault.

Did you experience corporal punishment as a child? Forty years ago only one country had banned it. Now there are 62. Why? Because we know the long-term negative effects for kids, families, and society.

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children comprises more than 500 partners around the world, from research institutions to civil society organizations. The grounding mission is the belief that “every child deserves to grow up free from violence.”

Earlier this year the partnership published a report called Prohibiting all Corporal Punishment of Children: Laying the Foundations for Non-Violent Childhoods. It analyzed data from 199 states, all of which are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child with the exception of Kosovo, Taiwan, The Holy See, Western Sahara, and the USA.

The report states that “violence against children is an epidemic of abuse,” with short- and long-term negative consequences, affecting over a billion children every year (p. 2) (Hillis et al., 2016). Four out of five children between ages 2 and 14 are violently disciplined in the home (UNICEF, 2014). Despite evidence-based solutions, the political and financial commitments have not been made to keep children safe. COVID-19 has exacerbated the risk of violence toward children.

Ending violence against children is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to be implemented by 2030: #16.2: End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violecne against and torture of children.”

What is corporal punishment?

According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment 8 (2006):

“Corporal punishment comprises any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light, as well as other non-physical forms of punishment that are also cruel and degrading.”

What are the report’s key messages?

  • The most common form of violence against children worldwide is corporal punishment. It is a widely accepted form of treating children.
  • Corporal punishment affects all children, no matter their gender, race, age or social background, although the kind of punishment can vary by which category a child is placed into.
  • Corporal punishment, even the “light” variety, is associated with poor outcomes in terms of mental health, cognitive development, aggression and antisocial behavior, and education achievement.
  • Corporal punishment damages family relationships and affects how people learn to resolve conflict.
  • Corporal punishment is a violation of children’s rights because it is a form of cruel treatment that does not respect physical integrity and human dignity.
  • Countries/States are already obligated to prohibit corporal punishment in every setting by ratifying international rights documents.
  • Whereas worldwide virtually every adult has legal protection from assault, only 13% of children do.
  • Prohibiting corporal punishment of children in all venues sends the message that children merit protection from assault just as adults do.
  • The purpose is not to punish parents but to offer support in learning to use non-violent parenting practices.
  • More and more countries are committing to ending corporal punishment.


  • Experiencing corporal punishment leads the child to approve of and use violence themselves.
  • The social effects of condoning corporal punishment are linked to slower economic growth and social development as well as a lack of personal and collective security.

The partnership provides information and technical assistance to support an international movement of advocacy for ending corporal punishment.


Banning corporal punishment is the first step and the foundation for limiting its use.

The following are listed as important for law reform so that no loopholes or confusion result:

  • “All defences and authorisations of corporal punishment are repealed (removed) so that the criminal law on assault applies equally to assaults on children, whether or not they are described as discipline or punishment;
  • Legislation explicitly prohibits—or is clearly interpreted as prohibiting—all corporal punishment and other cruel and degrading punishment;
  • The language used is clear and not open to misinterpretation—the law must leave no doubt that children should not be physically punished or suffer humiliating or degrading punishment;
  • There are no legal loopholes that could be used by those seeking to justify or defend some level of violent punishment of children.”

The report lists countries and their practices. Sixty-two countries have banned corporal punishment thus far. In the USA, corporal punishment is not prohibited in the home. But about two-thirds of states prohibit corporal punishment in care settings, schools, and penal institutions.


Once committed to ending corporal punishment in all settings, each country can implement public education campaigns, professional training, and positive parenting support. They can promote safe schools and communities.

INSPIRE is one of the resources developed as a framework for ending violence against children. The World Health Organization (2014) developed the technical package, INSPIRE, as a framework for ending violence against children:

  • Implementation and enforcement of laws,
  • Norms and values,
  • Safe environments,
  • Parent and caregiver support,
  • Income and economic strengthening,
  • Response and support services,
  • Education and life skills.


Regular data collection through surveys will be needed. Countries and communities can measure progress with Sustainable Developmental Goal 16.2.1:

“Percentage of children ages 1-17 who experienced any physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by caregivers in the past month.”

The authors stress that violence is not a private matter but a matter of human rights that affects us all.


Hillis S, Mercy J, Amobi A, et al. (2016). Global Prevalence of Past-year Violence Against Children: A Systematic Review and Minimum Estimates. Pediatrics, 137(3), e20154079.

Pereznieto, P., Montes, A., Routier, S. & Langston, L. (2014). The costs and economic impact of violence against children. Overseas Development Institute.

UNICEF (2014). Hidden in plain sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children.

World Health Organization (2014). INSPIRE: Seven strategies for ending violence against children. Geneva: WHO.

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