Spanking is not a thing of the past. If you are working in a classroom, you most likely have direct experience of this reality. Most of us have students who are spanked.
Many of us also remember being spanked when we were children or have spanked our own children. In fact, about half of parents in the US report that they have spanked their child (under age 9) within the last year (Finkelhor et al., 2019).
In research terms, spanking is called corporal punishment. Corporal punishment happens when someone intentionally causes physical harm (even mild) to someone else in order to give them negative feedback (to punish them for bad behavior).
In the United States, "mild" corporal punishment is completely legal if it happens at home. In care settings like schools, it is against the law in only 31 states (Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children, 2020).
While spanking is often seen as socially acceptable, new research suggests that even mild corporal punishment in childhood may have negative long-term consequences for brain development. Read on for details.