My name is Darrell Meece, and I am a professor in the School of Education at UTC. Although there has been a good bit of research on parental physical punishment, we know very little about the outcomes of school-based corporal punishment. For this reason I would like to briefly tell you of my on-going research (I presented preliminary findings at the Society for Research in Child Development in Montreal last Spring). We followed groups of children from Knoxville and Nashville in a longitudinal study that has spanned three decades. The children were first contacted the summer before they entered kindergarten, then each year they were interviewed, along with their teachers and parents. School records were used to tabulate the children's academic success and discipline.
Each year during elementary and middle school the children's teachers completed the widely used Achenbach Teacher Report Form, which provides a measure of "externalizing behavior" (e.g.., physical and verbal aggression, defiance, bullying). For each year, when controlling for the previous year's level of externalizing behavior, school-based paddling predicted INCREASES in externalizing behavior. In other words, paddling in school increased externalizing behavior rather than decreasing it. This fits with research on parental-based physical punishment which has demonstrated that it is linked with immediate compliance but long-term non-compliance (and later "sneaky" behavior linked to lower rates of an internalized sense of self-control).
Moreover, children who received school-based corporal punishment were significantly less likely to graduate from high school. This remained the case when compared to samples matched for sex, race, socio-economic status, parental use of harsh discipline, and level of externalizing behavior. Regardless of those other variables, children who were paddled in school were more likely to drop out. Why? I believe that they came to see school as a negative place that they wanted to avoid.
Unfortunately, there are some who seem to confuse physical punishment with discipline. A lack of physical punishment does not mean a lack of limits or consistency. There are many discipline strategies besides physical punishment that have proved successful in the home and classroom. Please do not hesitate to contact me at UTC if you have any questions.