Spanking is a traditional form of corporal punishment. It consists of striking the buttocks, or another part of the body repeatedly, with either an open hand or an implement like a belt, switch or paddle. The term "spanking" generally implies corrective punishment and no intention of permanent injury. Smacking is chiefly a British term and typically used to mean spanking with an open hand. Spanking in the UK usually refers to the BDSM sense.

Spanking of children is a debated social issue.

The argument for spanking

Those who accept spanking often frame the issue as a matter of parental rights -- parents have the right to raise their child in the way they consider appropriate. They also claim there is little evidence that moderate spanking is harmful. Further, many believe that discipline problems among children have increased, and relate that at least partially to the decline of both parental authority and the use of spanking. Others claim that moderate spanking is simple and effective, while non-spanking discipline proposed by academic psychologists relies on complicated methods that many parents do not manage to implement successfully.

Arguments against spanking

Anti-spanking advocates make a number of arguments against spanking, on a number of grounds: chiefly that spanking is abusive, that it is ineffective, and that it teaches children that physical violence is an acceptable way to deal with other people.

Opponents of spanking point out that what has traditionally been regarded as reasonable chastisement would be regarded as assault if carried out on an adult. Many years ago, it was legal for a man to use physical force to "chastise" his wife, an act now regarded as domestic violence and illegal. Some hold that, in time, the act of spanking a child will be regarded in the same way: indeed, in some countries this is already the case. (See below.)

The boundary between spanking and abuse is difficult for even traditionalists to define: two guides are that the parent doing the spanking must not feel anger at the child or satisfaction at the act of spanking; and that the spanking must not leave bruises or other injury. Opponents suggest that both of these may be rationalizations, or a slippery slope.

Opponents also hold that spanking is ineffective; that other forms of discipline are more successful at teaching a child to behave properly.

Opponents also claim that spanking teaches children that violence is an appropriate way to treat those who offend one. Some consider that spanking, as with clear-cut forms of physical abuse, may perpetuate a "cycle of violence" which contributes to violent behavior in adult society as well. Children learn by example, and those subjected to physical violence "for their own good" will, the argument goes, learn that this is an appropriate way to treat others who have wronged them.

Alternative forms of discipline

As an alternative to spanking, many advocate the use of time-outss. They point out that alternatives to spanking are not complicated, and only require the parents to exercise modest amounts of intelligence and self-control.

Other criticisms and questions about spanking

Those opposing traditional discipline have speculated on the links between eroticism and the spanking of children. They correlate the spanking of children as a form of paraphiliac sexual abuse, and also that childhood spanking may lead to the development of paraphiliac behavior in later life.

Proponents of spanking find these speculations extremely unsettling. They assert that there has been no scientific evidence in favor of this speculation.

The legal situation

Corporal punishment of school children remains legal in a majority of U.S states, though it is commonly practiced mainly in the South. However, there are states where school officials have lost their jobs for spanking students. Spanking of children is illegal in some countries (for example, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Israel and Latvia). Similar initiatives in the U.S. have repeatedly failed.

Consensual spanking

Spanking can also occur as an activity between consenting adults, most often in a BDSM context; see that article and erotic spanking for more information.

Other uses

In British English, spanking can be used as a superlative adjective, as in "brand spanking new".

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