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Spanking is a traditional form of corporal punishment. It consists of striking the buttocks, or another part of a child's 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 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.

The argument against spanking

Anti-spanking advocates make a number of arguments against spanking, on a number of grounds.

They argue that spanking in any form is abuse, and must be replaced by other forms of parenting that do not include the use of violence. They point out that what spanking advocates regard as reasonable chastisement would regarded as assault if carried out on an adult. They also state that previous generations regarded it as acceptable for a man to beat his wife, something now regarded as criminal, and believe that in time the act of spanking a child will be regarded in the same way.

They also believe that spanking does not work. Spanking perpetuates a "cycle of violence", teaching the child that violence is an acceptable problem resolution tool. They assert that spanking a child might simply not result in corrected behavior, and worse, may lead to violent behavior in later life. As an alternative to spanking, many advocate the use of time-outs. They point out that alternatives to spanking are not complicated, and only require the parents to exercise modest amounts of intelligence and self-control.

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. Another claim they make is that most of those who are into the paraphilia of erotic spanking belong to the minority who were not spanked as young.

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.

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