Studies on Corporal Punishment

The study done by Jamie Cage and Sarah Font was meant to examine how physical punishment, corporal and physical abuse influence how a child does in school and self-isolation. Corporal punishment is a physical punishment of any sort. In the study, the researchers examined children from ages of 3-14 over a span of 3 years to see how their cognitive performance changes while going through physical punishment. The researchers’ hypothesis was, does physical punishment affect a child’s cognitive performance in school.

Cage and Font examined 3 questions throughout the case study, the first was does physical punishment have an influence on children’s cognitive and academic performance, the second was, does the influence on cognitive and school performance vary due to the severity of physical punishment, and lastly, do the children and the guardian have the same physical punishment reports.

The researchers obtained their data by using a survey sample from an organization named the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Cage and Font stated that their data was collected at 3 points throughout the 3-year study; at the beginning of the study, 18 months, and at 36 months. The researchers had a sample number of 658 children (Cage & Font, 2018, p. 31). T

he type of study conducted was a case study. Researchers found that overall, children and guardians had close approximates for mild physical punishment, high physical punishment, and physical abuse. The results for mild physical punishment for guardian and participant were 36% vs. 28%, for high physical punishment it was 20% vs. 14%, and for physical abuse it was 6% vs. 7% (Cage & Font, 2018, p. 33).

Researchers found that physical abuse and harsh physical punishment led to less engagement in school and problems academically in school. According to Cage and Font, past studies have also linked physical abuse to students having problems with school academics. The limitation this study was only using the children who participated in the survey from the cohort of National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being.

This research can be furthered by seeing if the children from the sample decided to continue higher education or not to; to see if the physical abuse had an impact throughout their school engagement after high school. The study was conducted ethically because the researchers took the sample from the children who had already participated in a survey from child social services.

The study conducted by Sarah A. Font and Elizabeth T. Gershoff was meant to examine characteristics of culture, economic, and racial status of states in the US that still use corporal punishment in schools. Font and Gershoff state their study was the first ever to be done on corporal punishment in schools using universal data.

The researchers used linked statistics from the U.S. Census, Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, and U.S. Department of Agriculture; US Today to evaluate characteristics associated with student corporal punishment (Font & Gershoff, 2017, p. 408). Font and Gershoff state their hypothesis was, what are the characteristics of the schools that uses student corporal punishment. The researchers retrieved their data from the questions answered by the participants in the surveys they had access to.

The researcher sample was obtained from statistics Font and Gershoff gathered from the U.S. Department of Civil Rights Data Collection from the year of 2011-2012. The participants were only taken from the data collection of the 19 states that allow corporal punishment of students. According to Font and Gershoff the total sample collection was from 38,003 schools. The research design used for this experiment was correlational because the researchers gathered their data from surveys that had already been done. Font and Gershoff found that in 5,534 schools, at least one person said that corporal punishment was used.

The researchers found that the schools that were described to have used corporal punishment were more than twice as likely to be in urban areas of the 19 states (Font & Gershoff, 2017, p. 411). According to the researchers most of the schools that had more use of corporal punishment were in counties that had a higher population of Protestants and Republicans. Font and Gershoff state in the research that, Hispanics had a bit lower rate than whites to receive corporal punishment. O

n the other hand, schools that had African American and non-African America, African American students received corporal punishment at a rate of 2.5 (Font & Gershoff, 2017, p. 413). Font and Gershoff state that there had not been a study conducted on school corporal punishment since the 1990’s. The research that had been done in the past indicated race, gender, and disability had an influence on who was given school corporal punishment (Font & Gershoff, 2017, p. 410). The limitations the research had was only using schools in the 19 states that allow corporal punishment on students, in the sample size.

This study could be conducted again in the future to see if there has been an increase or decrease in corporal punishment. This research was conducted ethically because the researchers achieved their results from a survey used in the U.S. Department of Civil Rights Data Collection.

The study conducted by Elizabeth Gershoff, George Holden, and Kierra Sattler, was done to add statistics to an unexplored area regarding corporal punishment in schools to see if it affects achievement and adjustment. The hypothesis of the study consisted of three questions, how is school corporal punishment done in the US, how do adults remember their reactions to going through corporal punishment, do adults that went through corporal punishment say they had a lower grade point average and have more feelings of not belonging than people who did not go through corporal punishment, do they state they have more symptoms of depression and want to spank their children more than others, and lastly are people who experienced corporal punishment more likely to think their children will benefit from being spanked (Gershoff, Holden, & Sattler, 2019, p. 2-3).

According to Gershoff, Holden, and Sattler, participants for the study were recruited through a process of 2 methods. The first method was through a survey on Mechanical Turk; participants answered an ad for Human Intelligence Task where they were paid 1.00 for their participation. In the second method of recruitment, the researchers asked teachers from two universities in Texas to ask their psychology students if they would like to participate in the experiment. The students who signed up to participate received credit towards class requirements, or extra credit. The students who agreed to be participants in the study were sent an email that directed them to an online Qualtrics survey (Gershoff et al., 2019, p. 3).

The type of study used for this research was correlational. Gershoff et al. states that out of the 803 participants 128 responded or 16% stated that they did have received corporal punishment. 52% of the participants stated they only received corporal punishment in one of the 3 levels of the school system, 33% in elementary school, 10% in middle school, and 9% in high school (Gershoff et al., 2019, p. 5). The researchers found that participants who had any kind of corporal punishment in school stated they had a lower grade point average and felt like they did not belong, they were also less likely to think corporal punishment should be used in elementary and middle school, but they stated corporal punishment should be allowed in high school (Gershoff et al., 2019, p. 6). According to Gershoff et al., there has been no other study to examine what children describe going through when they are being corporally punished (Gershoff et al., 2019, p. 2).

The researchers in this study were limited to only surveying people and students in the 19 states where corporal punishment is allowed. This study could be furthered by, conducting the same researcher in a couple of years to see if students still feel the same way about corporal punishment. This study was conducted ethically, the researchers had the students from the University in Texas sign for consent online before they participated in the survey.


  1. Gershoff, E., Holden, W. G., & Sattler, K. M. P. (2019). School corporal punishment and its association with achievement and adjustment. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, (63), 1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2019.05.004
  2. Font, S. A., & Gershoff, E. T. (2017). Contextual factors associated with the use of corporal punishment in U.S. public schools. Children and Youth Services Review, (79), 408-417. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.034
  3. Cage, J., & Font, S. (2018). Dimensions of physical punishment and their associations with children’s cognitive performance and school adjustment. Child Abuse & Neglect, (75), 29-40. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.06008