Research Paper on Effects of Physical Punishment Based On Race

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Physical Abuse, Punishment, Social Issues, Psychology

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2019/10/11

African American vs. Caucasians


Physical punishment refers to any form of punishment that is inflicted on the body of an individual. It is quite different from the pecuniary punishments, which have nothing to do with the physical body of an individual. Most of the physical punishments occur in two major scenarios. These include the physical chastisement with respect to an offender. This is a punitive measure for one who has committed a crime. The other aspect is corporal punishment of children. This can be utilized as a disciplinary measure in schools as well as a method by parents of a child, in an effort to instill discipline in a stubborn child or one who has made a mistake worth disciplinary measure.

Looking at the finer details of physical punishment in the federal system, there are other measures such as branding, flogging as well as mutilation. In as much as physical punishment takes two major forms, there are a number of psychological effects that come as a result of physical punishment. Further, such effects vary depending on the race of the individual, for instance the impact of a certain form of physical punishment on an African American, would be very different from that of a Caucasian. In as much as most people relate physical punishment to positive behavior alterations, there are also negative outcome of the same.

Effects of physical punishment based on race

Increased violence rates

Dr. Alvin Poussaint, who is a professor of psychiatry within the Medical School at Harvard, is on of the many professors who oppose physical punishment especially on the African American children. The main argument brought forward on this matter lies in the fact most of these children end up growing with the notion that the violence is the only amicable solution to any problem (Muwakkil, 2006). However, physical punishments have several other harmful effects on the black community social life. A lot of anger has engrossed the African-American children due to frequent physical punishment to the extent that they even form the highest rate the expelled students due to anger (Garrett, 1995). Further studies indicate that the more these children get physically punished, the more they harbor anger. This anger then boils down into exhibits of violent activities. It is no wonder that the number of African Americans behind bars is alarmingly on the rise. Another research indicated that of all the parents, 80% of the African American parents believe in corporal punishment (Bachar, Canetti, Bonne, Denour & Shalev, 1997).

Despite the fact that African American children are the ones who undergo corporal punishment the most, some Caucasian children also go through the same. However, the most significant factor in the difference between the African-Americans and the Caucasians with respect to physical punishment is in the intensity of violence rates (Holt & Espelage, 2005). The few Caucasian children who undergo this form of punishment exhibit the most extreme use of violence compared to their African American counterparts (Siegel & Welsh, 2008).

Cycle of violence

As earlier indicated, studies depict that most of the people who undergo physical punishment are the African Americans. A significant psychological report indicates that physical punishment is more likely to teach and nature children to become physically violent and even depict the same later in life (Lytton, 1997). It is no wonder that the African Americans have continuously passed on this form of punitive measure. This is in the sense that upon growing up under physical punishment as a corrective measure, they carry the same into their homes and exercise the same on their children (American Psychological Association, 1975). On the other hand, their Caucasian counterparts having grown up without experiencing severe instances of physical punishment rarely punish their children physically or via corporal punishment. This therefore appears to be a form of cycle of violence (Hardy & Laszloffy, 2005).

Physical abuse

Many African Americans use physical punishment more than the Caucasians but either way there is a difference in psychological response to physical abuse by the two racial extremes. The routine use of this, results in parents engaging in physical abuse especially when physical punishment loses effectiveness over time (Gracia & Herrero, 2008). The psychological impact of physical abuse is inevitably post traumatic stress disorder. The remedies for such include resorting to substance abuse and to the extreme suicide attempts (Werkle & Wall, 2002). Based on a research carried out on risk factors for suicidal behavior, the African American indicated that they suffered a lot of emotional neglect and intense physical abuse. On the other hand, for the Caucasians, this was to a high degree related to family history and to a lesser degree physical abuse in childhood, although it played a minor part (Roy, 2003).

Effects of physical punishment on households (Social Workers and African-Americans)

Case Study

Back Ground

During a five year a five-year study with respect to the delivery of social service delivery, a significant aspect was brought to light. This was in the sense that any time a “white” social worker made an effort to talk about matters to do with physical punishment or any other issue related to the upbringing of a child, especially with a “black” parent, there were significant attitudes alterations. The alterations were as regards the opinion of parents to that of the social workers on the matter of physical punishment. Many of the African American parents expressed a high affinity for physical discipline. Upon inclusion of elderly African Americans, the preference was not any different. The issue of physical punishment has for a long time dominated the context of social service delivery in the contemporary America (Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari, 1999).

Conflict in social work policy

As per the American social worker policy, physical punishment is supposed to be treated as on of the most dis-preferred methods when it comes to child discipline. While most of the social workers preferably treat commitment to physical punishment as primary evidence of inappropriate parenting skills, the black American see this as the best evidence of caring and concerned parenthood. This is primarily the conflict area between the African American parents and social workers (Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari, 1999).

Midwest Agency Practical application

African American, urban parents, who were usually served by Midwest Agency, were required by the judicial court to take part in a program of social service intervention as well as training. This was in an effort to keep the families intact. The reason was that, most of the children from such homes were already in foster homes. Most of the parents who took part in this program did it with the hope of obtaining their children back upon being judged fit to be parents. However, it has been observed that even as the parents are undergoing this form of training, they still reiterated the fact that they prefer physical punishment on their children more than any other because it is the best way the know how to discipline their children(Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari, 1999). Considering the fact that they really wanted their children, it was evident that it was their cultural orientation, shared by everyone in the black American community which drove them to prefer this form of punishment, despite the fact that it has landed them into such massive trouble. They are often misjudged on the notion of improper parenting which is often not the case (Westman, 1994).

Inappropriate measures by the social workers

The confusion in the techniques used by the African American parents to bring up their children, has resulted in most social workers over representing the case for the African American children, this is with regard to them being put in foster care systems more than the whites of any other racial orientations. Statistics indicate that the rate, at which the African American children are reported, is almost double their actual population. Another startling statistic is the separation of African American children from their families, which is about five times on the high compared to their Caucasian counterparts. Besides, in comparison the other racial orientations, it is the African American children who remain in care the longest. Besides, they end up receiving the least desirable placements compared to children from other races (Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari, 1999).


Most of the social workers dealing with African Americans record the highest instances of physical punishment and physical abuse on the children. Moreover, it is the African Americans who exhibit a more augmented rate of initial contact with individuals from the social services compared to the Caucasian households. Due to their cultural orientations, the African Americans have a higher preference for physical discipline. This has resulted in stubbornness on the part of such parents in the quest to accommodate new parenting modes and cut down on either corporal or physical punishment. Similarly, due to the strong root and firm belief in their parenting styles it is very difficult for any of these individuals who highly value their parenting styles, and having the support of their fellow African Americans, to take in and welcome the opinion of  a white social worker, who may claim that they are using their children. They even insist that they will continue to use the same form of physical punishment on their children. The findings indicated that this kind of attitude developed by the African Americans towards the social workers is due to adherence to a predetermined set of traditional cultural values as far as child upbringing is concerned. However, this mind set is yet again the main reason why most social service agencies target the African American house holds (Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari, 1999).

Different styles of punishment in different cultures and the argument for the same

Case Study


The study was primarily aimed at examining the alterations in cultural differences between the parenting practices. This was with regard to physical punishment in the African-Americans and Caucasians. Most of the adults at the place were asked questions related to their care givers and their parents in terms of their upbringing and the form of discipline that they were given. Through the examination of the relevant variables, the study would bring to light the relevant data as regards the variation in styles of punishment in different cultures. Another important aspect of the study would be to bring out the relation between cultures, styles of discipline and even the parenting styles. Besides, the data was aimed to bring out statistically significant difference between Caucasian and African American parenting practices (Hyman & Wise, 1979). The hypothesis was that African American parenting as well as discipline practices would to a great extent involve a lot of corporal punishment opposed to the Caucasians. In addition, it was also assumed that more of the African American parents utilize the authoritarian parenting style which makes them use a lot of physical punitive measures. On contrary, their Caucasian counterparts use the permissive parenting. Overall, this study analyzed the existence of a correlation between culture and parenting practices (Van Ijzendoorn, C Tavecchio, Stams, Verhoeven & Reiling, 1998).


The assumptions and hypothesis were quite different from the results of the research. The authoritative and permissive parenting styles were exercised by the African American parents. However, with respect to disciplinary measures, it was the African Americans who mostly exercised physical punishment. On the other hand, their Caucasian counterparts use a lot of dialogue and coercion to correct their young ones.  Elements of acculturation were evident in the sense that some of the African-Americans, who were married to Caucasians, practiced both elements such as corporal punishment and also dialogue. Additionally, related studies indicate that via the acculturation, the minority group usually adopts the cultural practices of the culture that is dominant. Further results indicated that the African American mothers who were foreign born, used a lot of verbal reasoning and child spanking, whereas the native-born African Americans used more of scolding as opposed to spanking and verbal reasoning. An interesting result from the research was that the intensity of the use of corporal punishment among the Caucasian parents who used it was to the extreme (Van Ijzendoorn, C Tavecchio, Stams, Verhoeven & Reiling, 1998).


From the research carried out and the case studies utilized, it is evident that physical punishment has severe negative effects that may be both physical as well as psychological. If this is frequent, harsh as well as intense, definitely a negative impact will be experienced by the one it is inflicted upon. It is also evident from the studies that in case a punishment is utilized normatively in a culture, the effects are less negative. However, caution has to be taken, because the degree of the impact cannot be predicted. Some positive contributions regarding striking a balance between cultures, forms of punishment and social worker related perspective conflict, parents are encouraged to adopt better, harmless and more positive parenting methods.

Based on the fact that the race of an individual has an inclination to some traits in the individuals such as violence rates, fueling the cycle of violence and depicting of physical abuse later in life, it is important that further research be carried out on the manner in which these vices can be reduced from a particular group of people or even get eliminated. Besides, the studies that have been used indicate that there is a conflict of interest between the social workers and the form of physical punishment inflicted upon, especially among the African Americans families. The best remedy to this is having an understanding of the cultural difference, because it is very easy for an African American social worker to understand what goes on in an African American home in terms of child upbringing, punishment methods utilized as compared to a Caucasian social worker. Consequently, it curbs on the extreme statistics regarding the number of African American children being taken to foster homes by mistake. Another aspect of the research carried out was on the relationship between culture and the kind of punishment that is most dominant. It is vital for the cultural orientation to be clearly distinguished but then the parents should be advised on the psychological as well as physical implications of the form of punishment they give there young ones with the aim of correcting their character and earning their respect. If it is to both extremes, either positive or negative, the outcome would be negative. Most of the assumptions made regarding culture and physical punishment as depicted in the research are not always the case.


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