An Analysis of Research on Punishment and Its Relation to the Use of Corporal Punishment in the Schools
Anthony F. Bongiovanni
In recent years we have witnessed an increase in concern over the reported lack of discipline in American schools. It is not uncommon to attend a school board meeting where the discussion focuses on school violence, vandalism, and lack of respect for authority. A commonly suggested solution to the problem is to return to the practices "of the good old days" when corporal punishment was the usual fate of recalcitrant pupils. In fact, many proponents of the "back to basics" movement support the conservative ideology of stern discipline as a necessity for learning and the development of good character. However, despite protestations of lax discipline and the need to return to the use of corporal punishment and other punitive methods, a review of the literature will reveal that the practice is still thriving. Corporal punishment is still a widespread and officially sanctioned form of discipline in home and school ( Hyman, 1976; Maurer, 1974). Yet while debate over the use of corporal punishment in the schools has continued for years, it is clear that little scientific data have been used to resolve the issue. A major problem is to determine how corporal punishment, as practiced in schools, affects the behavior of pupils. This is obviously a difficult question to answer. Central to the issue are questions of the effectiveness of corporal punishment in producing durable behavior change, the various factors which influence its outcome, and the incidence and effect of negative side- effects.
An examination of the empirical research on punishment reveals that the answers to these questions have not been clearly delineated. The lit-
This is a revised version of an essay which appeared in Proceedings: Conference on Corporal Punishment: A National Debate, National Institute of Education, 1977.