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Prevalence Of Physical Discipline, Controversy About The Use Of Physical Discipline, Alternatives To Physical Discipline

Although spanking is a term familiar to most parents, it may be defined differently depending on our personal circumstances. For some, spanking may refer to one or two flat-handed swats on a child's wrist or buttocks, but would not include a beating with a whip or a belt. For others, spanking also includes slaps and pinches to the leg, arm, back, or even the head, as long as no marks are left after a relatively short period of time.

On a broader level, the term corporal punishment is sometimes used instead of spanking. One oft-cited definition of corporal punishment is "the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control of the child's behavior" (Straus 1994, p. 4). Shoving, shaking, grabbing, and even keeping a child in an uncomfortable position for a prolonged period of time probably ought also to be included to form a more complete definition. In this entry, spanking, corporal punishment, and physical discipline will be used interchangeably but will exclude any type of hitting or physical contact that results in injury or marks that last longer than a few hours.

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