The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

My 99th Debate: Kids and Corporal Punishment

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/6/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,625 times Debate No: 62736
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (70)
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This is my 99th debate, and I am look forward to it! Please do not accept unless you intend to invest effort and not forfeit. I look forward to an interesting discussion. You must've completed 3 debates to accept this and you must have a minimum of 2,500 ELO to vote on this.

Full Topic

On balance, parental use of corporal punishment is beneficial for the child.


1. Pro accepts the sole BOP
2. No forfeits
3. Any citations or foot/endnotes must be provided in the text of the debate
4. No new arguments in the final round
5. Maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
6. No semantics or trolling
7. Violation of any of these rules or of any of the R1 set-up merits a loss


R1. Pro's presents his Case
R2. Con presents his Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case
R3. Con rebuts Pro's Case, Pro defends Pro's Case
R4. Con defends Con's Case, Pro rebuts Con's Case and Crystallizes
R5. Con rebuts Pro's Case and Crystallizes

Thanks... whomever accepts; I eagerly look forward to a good debate!


In my family, we don't do punishment. I was never grounded, had my allowance stopped, or spanked. When issues of behavior came up, we sat around and discussed them. This is consistent with the morality of my family, and the type of community I grew up in, and I have every intention of raising my children in this same way, since it's my culture and I like it.

Nevertheless, I'm not playing devil's advocate on this debate. I really do believe the resolution is right. It's not a strong belief, but on balance, all things considered, I come down on the side of the resolution rather than against it. I feel that my reasoning has a lot of parts to it, and it will be a challenge to lay out all the parts of it simply in a debate, so thank you to bsh1 for this opportunity to try it out.

Parental ignorance theory

In the nice, vaguely privileged world I grew up in, everyone goes to college and everyone agrees that corporal punishment is wrong. There are lots of reasons - the use of force on someone weaker is in itself abhorrent - and what lesson does it give children about power and relationships! - positive reinforcement is better than negative reinforcement, people should behave well not because they are afraid but because they are engaged with the consequences of moral behavior etc.

And yet, most parents use corporal punishment. I am going to pause for a moment to lay out some evidence for this, because it's important.


A study of parenting found that in 7 out of 9 countries, a large majority of parents had used corporal punishment in the previous month. Most parents in China, Kenya, Thailand, Colombia, Italy, Jordan, and The Philippines reported using corporal punishment. Just under half of US parents reported corporal punishment in the previous month, and only Swedish parents reported very low levels (keeping in mind that corporal punishment is illegal in Sweden, and so respondents may have felt constrained in answering the questions). (1)

More than 70% of Americans agree that spanking children is an appropriate punishment (2).


There are two ways to interpret this:

A. On balance, corporal punishment is bad for children, but most parents around the world are ignorant/cruel and do it anyway. (Con's position)

B. On balance, corporal punishment isn't bad for children. Parents know what they're doing. (Pro's position)

I find it very difficult to accept position A because it runs contrary to something I believe to be true: that in general, people act in their own best interests and in the best interests of their children. Also, that people are more engaged in the problem of their own best interests than anyone else, and so are most likely to know what's best for them. Of course, we can all think of individual instances when people act against their own best interests, but here we are talking about global population trends.

All around the world, the large majority of parents are using corporal punishment to raise their children. Con thinks they are misguided at best. I think that parents are biologically designed to care for their children, that in general they can't help acting in their children's best interests, that every society in the world recognizes parental expertise in raising their own children (if there are any exceptions I can't think of them). No better means of raising children has ever been found than trusting parents and supporting parents to do it. Therefore, I think we have to reject the theory that most parents around the world are wrong, while we are right.

Which leaves us with interpretation B. Parents know what they are doing. But what about all the evidence about how bad corporal punishment is? What about all that stuff about it teaching aggression and the links to mental illness? I don't want to anticipate Con's arguments too much, but most research on corporal punishment comes from Western countries and it's done by college-educated middle-class types like me. The research is biased, and that makes a huge difference when it comes to interpreting the results.

Authoritative vs Authoritarian Parenting Styles: How we got it wrong

Diana Baumrind described four parenting styles in the 1960s, and the typology subsequently became very popular. There are four types, but for the current discussion only the first two are important:

1. Authoritative Parenting: "attempts to direct the child's activities but in a rational, issue-oriented manner...encourages verbal give and take, shares with the child the reasoning behind her policy, and solicits his objections when he refuses to conform"

2. Authoritarian Parenting: "values obedience as a virtue and favors punitive, forceful measures to curb self-will at points where the child's actions or beliefs conflict with what she thinks is right conduct. She believes in keeping the child in his place..." (3)

In the decades after this typology was described, research paper after research paper showed that of the types, the authoritative style was most closely linked to good outcomes for children, from happiness to results at school. For example on this site, The Positive Parenting Centre, (4) makes it clear that the authoritative type is the good one, it is described as "a warm, nurturing, accepting manner", which contrasts with the authoritarian type which is "extremely strict" with "little or no input from the child" and is associated with strict rules and punishments. On the site Parenting Science, the writer states that "authoritative parenting is associated with the best child outcomes" and this conclusion has been common (5).

It has only been very recently that the truth has been revealed: authoritative parenting is indeed associated with the best outcomes but only in specific Western cultures.

For example, a study in the US, Hong Kong and Australia showed that the authoritarian parenting style was associated with high academic achievement for children in Hong Kong and for those in Australia and the US whose parents did not have a college education. (6)

This is worth repeating. Strict, rule-based, punishment focused parenting styles were linked to the best outcomes for non-Western children and for Western children whose parents didn't go to college.

Whereas among the Western middle-classes where I grew up, this type of authoritarian parenting style is linked to poorer outcomes.

As this study explains (7), parents from different countries and social groups relate to their children in different ways. In the western middle-classes, closeness between parent and child is a mediator in enforcing discipline, but this is not always the way that it's done elsewhere.

Therefore, we cannot take conclusions about best parenting practices from our own culture and apply them universally.

Corporal Punishment and Outcomes

Corporal punishment is effective in improving child behavior in the short-term. Even opponents agree that this is true.(8)

However, it is the long-term effects that opponents are worried about, including increased aggression, mental health problems and difficulty internalizing morality.

Here's the thing. African Americans are three times more likely to endorse corporal punishment than are other Americans.(9) African American children are more likely to have "mental problem" status (10) and be arrested and coded as delinquents (11) than are other types of American children. So yes, you plug all that into a data analysis and you will get a correlation. Corporal punishment. Mental health problems (depression and anxiety mostly). Aggression. Failure to internalize those moral values.

Could it be that black parents are simply more ignorant, or just worse than the rest of us? Could it be that a simple process of disciplining children could unleash such a range of terrible outcomes?

Obviously not. It's just another example of how correlation mistaken for causation and mixed up with racially biased data collection. It's possible that not all black parents are gagging for their children to internalize a conforming morality. Maybe some parents want their children to develop a healthy disrespect for authority while realizing that breaking the rules can lead to harsh consequences because black people are six times more likely to go to prison than white people (12).

Maybe there's more going on here.


We need to choose. Is it that:

A. Parents who aren't white or who don't have a college education are just ignorant and bad; or
B. All parents are doing their best in different circumstances, and when our theories are based too narrowly on our own circumstances, we can get it wrong.

I don't think we can dismiss the the opinion of the majority of Americans and the actions of the majority of parents around the world as ignorance and cruelty. I don't think we can conclude that college-educated Westerners simply know better than everyone else about raising children, because we really don't.

It goes against everything I was raised to believe, but I'm forced to conclude that on balance, when it occurs, parental use of corporal punishment is beneficial for the child.

Debate Round No. 1


I thank Garbanza for accepting this debate. I will now lay out my case, but after I briefly discuss the resolution and burdens in this debate.


Let's break down the resolution before getting in to my arguments. The phrase "on balance" implies that the winner should be determined after a preponderance of the evidence. If we imagined the debate as a scale, and our arguments as weights, whichever side has more weight is the side deserving of the vote. However, since Pro has 100% of the burden of proof, as per Rule number 1, if the scale is roughly even at the end of the debate, you must vote Con. The fact that Pro has the BOP means that, in non-metaphorical terms, if Pro hasn't proven her case, even if you don't think I proved mine, you still have to vote Con.

Finally, there is a specific way the benefits of corporal punishment should be assess. The resolution is not talking about benefits to society, to parents, to schoolteachers, etc., but rather it is specifically talking about benefits "for the child." Only benefits that impact back to the child are relevant, and only these arguments weigh on our hypothetical scale.

The resolution also does not specify any specific type of corporal punishment that Pro must defend, therefore, to defend only certain types of corporal punishment would fail to defend the full scope of the ground Pro needs to cover. While I don't expect Pro to defend clear instances of abuse, Pro must still defend those acts which may to some seem abusive, but which to other, reasonable people, do not. With these understandings in mind, we can move on to my arguments.


In a meta-analysis of 88 studies, covering 62 years of data, psychologist Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD, "looked for associations between parental use of corporal punishment and 11 child behaviors and experiences, including several in childhood (immediate compliance, moral internalization, quality of relationship with parent, and physical abuse from that parent), three in both childhood and adulthood (mental health, aggression, and criminal or antisocial behavior) and one in adulthood alone (abuse of own children or spouse)." [1] Her analysis found that there were strong links between all of these 11 points and corporal punishment, and that "[t]en of the associations were negative such as with increased child aggression and antisocial behavior. The single desirable association was between corporal punishment and increased immediate compliance on the part of the child." [1] Gershoff found an especially strong link between the use of corporal punishment and parental abuse of the child. She cautioned that this evidenced a strong risk that corporal punishment could easily and "by its nature can escalate into physical maltreatment." [1]

Gershoff cites a growing body of data surrounding corporal punishment which notes that, "[f]or one, corporal punishment on its own does not teach children right from wrong. Secondly, although it makes children afraid to disobey when parents are present, when parents are not present to administer the punishment those same children will misbehave.In commentary published along with the Gershoff study, George W. Holden, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin, writes that Gershoff's findings 'reflect the growing body of evidence indicating that corporal punishment does no good and may even cause harm.'" [1]

In a separate study, involving some 2,500 children, researchers found that "who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were much more likely to be aggressive by age 5." [2] This study was the first of its kind "to control for a host of issues affecting the mother, such as depression, alcohol and drug use, spousal abuse and even whether she considered abortion while pregnant with the child." [2] Even after controlling for these variables, as well as for natural aggression in the children, the study found a 50% greater likelihood of aggression by age 5 in children who were spanked more frequently. [2] My sources posits that "the reason for this may be that spanking sets up a loop of bad behavior. Corporal punishment instills fear rather than understanding. Even if children stop tantrums when spanked, that doesn't mean they get why they shouldn't have been acting up in the first place. What's more, spanking sets a bad example, teaching children that aggressive behavior is a solution to their parents' problems." [2] "The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking under any circumstance. It's a form of punishment that becomes less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child outgrows it." [2]

Another piece of research observes a similar effect as the first two I've quoted. "Based on interviews with the mothers of about 3,000 children, researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire found that corporal punishment is counterproductive, resulting in more antisocial behavior by children in later years. Parents may not see this 'boomerang' effect because it happens over weeks or months." [3] "Researchers analyzed survey data from 807 mothers of children ages 6 to 9...They compared levels of antisocial behavior among spanked and unspanked children over that interval. The more spanking a child received at the beginning of the study, the higher level of antisocial behavior at the end, according to the researchers. The study found that the higher levels of antisocial behavior were independent of other traits that could affect that behavior, such as a family's socioeconomic status and the amount of support parents give their children. " [3]

"There is also MRI evidence that children treated with harsh corporal punishment have reduced gray matter when aged 18–25 in their prefrontal lobe. Such research also found that these reductions in gray matter linked to reduced performance IQ." [4]

UNICEF notes that, regarding children, "[corporal punishment] lowers their self-esteem, teaching them poor self-control and promoting negative expectations of themselves. It teaches them to be victims. There is a broadly held belief that people who are submitted to corporal punishment are made stronger by it; it 'prepares them for life.' Today we know that corporal punishment doesn't make people stronger; rather it makes them more prone to becoming repeat victims. It interferes with the learning process and with their intellectual, sensory and emotional development. It discourages the use of reasoning. By precluding dialogue and reflection, it hampers the capacity to understand the relationship between behavior and its consequences. It makes children feel lonely, sad and abandoned. It promotes a negative view of other people and of society as a threatening place. It creates barriers that impede parent-child communication and damages the emotional links established between them.It stimulates anger and a desire to run away from home. Violence begets violence. It teaches that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems. Children who have been submitted to corporal punishment may manifest difficulties with social integration. It doesn't teach children to cooperate with authority; it teaches them to comply with the rules or to infringe them. Children can suffer from accidental physical injuries. When someone hits a child, the situation can get out of hand and result in more harm than expected." [5]

Even more studies report similar findings regarding corporal punishment. The National Association of Social Workers conducted research that found "a link between physical punishment and several negative developmental outcomes for children: physical injury, increased aggression, antisocial behavior, poorer adult adjustment, and greater tolerance of violence.” [6] Other researchers have discovered that "the 25 percent of university students who ranked highest on a corporal punishment scale insisted on sex without a condom, compared with the 12.5 percent of university students who scored lowest on the scale. Another: 75 percent of college students who'd been spanked a lot said they were sexually aroused by masochistic sex, compared with 40 percent of students who were never spanked." [7]

So, to sum all of this up, I will quotes the APSA, which writes, "Spanking is a euphemism for hitting. One is not permitted to hit one's spouse or a stranger; such actions are defined as the crime of assault. Nor should one be permitted to hit a small and more vulnerable child. Hitting a child elicits precisely the feelings one does not want to generate in a child: distress, anger, fear, shame, and disgust." [8] Thus, I can only conclude that corporal punishment is indeed not beneficial for the child, and must urge a ballot in negation of today's resolution.

Thank you, and thanks to Garbanza. I hand over the floor to Pro...


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Benefits to the child

I agree that this debate is about benefits to the child. I disagree, though, that it can be separated so clearly from benefits to the parents because the child and the family are so interlinked. Consider a frazzled mother in the kitchen trying to put together dinner for the family, and on the phone to her boss at work, and the children start messing about with knives. So she slaps them and takes the knives away. Mostly she does it so that they don't bother her while she tries to cook dinner. It's a short-term solution. She doesn't have time to chat to them about the danger of knives. On the other hand, the benefits to the children are obvious too - that don't cut themselves on that occasion, their mother can sort things out with her boss and continue to get paid, which helps them all maintain their lifestyle, and she can get dinner on the table so they can eat.

It comes back to my original point, that we can assume that parents are acting on the whole in their children's best interests (allowing for exceptions). The exact way they do that may be complicated and parents go about it in different ways.

Around the world, most parents use corporal punishment occasionally, and more parents than that endorse it as appropriate. For me, that's enough to accept that corporal punishment benefits children in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary. Con has presented plenty of argument to the contrary, but none of it is convincing, as I will explain now.

Establishing cause (1)

There are two ways to establish cause. The first and best way is by doing an experimental study. An experimental study has a very particular design where subjects are randomly assigned to the treatment conditions. Without this part, the study is only observational and causality cannot be inferred from the results.

For example, suppose I noticed a link between high school grades and yacht ownership. Families that own yachts tend to produce children who get high grades in high school. I could come up with all kinds of theories - yacht owners spend more time outside in the fresh air, practicing navigation and coordinating in a yacht team all develop thinking skills, etc. It's nonsense though. Far more likely is that yacht owners are rich, they can afford tutors, computers, resources for their children. They probably have household staff so those students aren't bothered by chores. They have high expectations and a sense of entitlement. In other words, there is probably ZERO causal relationship between owning a yacht and getting high grades in high school despite the correlation.

Experimental studies on corporal punishment are impossible. Causality will never be established in this way because no ethics committee will ever allow children to be randomly assigned to a corporal punishment condition for experimental purposes, and any parents who would volunteer for such a study would be unusual and therefore could not be assumed to represent the population as a whole.

That means that we know straight up that THERE ARE NO STUDIES OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT that have established a causal relationship between corporal punishment and outcomes. Gerschoff, in the meta-analysis that Con cited, makes this clear:

"the meta-analyses described here do not afford causal conclusions but allow understanding only of whether corporal punishment and child constructs are associated. In addition... researchers must rely on parent reports of corporal punishment rather than on observations." (1) pg. 540

As I showed in the previous round, use of corporal punishment and attitudes towards it vary dramatically by culture. Black Americans are six times more likely to endorse it than white Americans. Chinese parents are 10x more likely to use it than Swedish parents. When we are comparing groups of parents on whether or not they use corporal punishment, then, we are comparing cultures.

Parents who report that they do not use corporal punishment are more likely to be college-educated westerners, for example, than those who do not. Any "outcome" measures, then, are merely recording differences between cultures. There is no reason at all to attribute those differences to corporal punishment rather than anything else - say - skin color, social influence or language spoken at home.

Establishing cause (2)

We can never do an experimental study on corporal punishment - that doesn't mean that we can never make comments about the effects of it. If we have a clear and convincing model or mechanism for the way corporal punishment works on behavior and thinking, then we can believe in the causality in that way. Such models are subject to error and bias, though, so we need to be careful about what we believe.

Two Children

Imagine two Christian families where the parents insist on saying grace before eating. In Family A, the children are spanked if they forget; in Family B, there is a lengthy discussion about God and gratitude, and the next time the children are warmly praised when they remember to say grace.

Two totally different messages. Child A learns about authority and power. He learns that authority sets the rules and that infractions will be punished if detected. He learns that there are three ways to escape punishment: 1. obey authority; 2. avoid authority; 3. be the authority.

Child B learns about God and gratitude. She learns that by not saying grace she is somehow letting herself down by being ungodly and ungrateful. It is not obvious to Child B where power and authority lies, unless it's somewhere in the moral ether.

This is what Con's sources are talking about: Child B has internalized the morality, while Child A has not. Child A has a much more pragmatic view of authority - he may be aggressive and defiant in attempts to contest it. Child B does not contest authority in the same way, because of that internalized morality.

A Guest Arrives

Each child brings home a friend from school for dinner who sits down and starts eating without waiting for grace! How will the children respond?

Child A would notie that the guest "got away" with not saying grace, and that guests have special status to avoid punishment. An interesting loophole to the rule.

Child B would notice their guest behaving in an ungodly and ungrateful way. They would feel that the guest was letting herself down by behaving so wrongly. Even if Child B's parents had explained the rule about Not Everyone Living like Us, if Child B has really internalized the morality of saying grace, she can't help but lose a bit of respect for her guest.

Benefits to the child

It really isn't obvious whether Child A or Child B benefits more. The internalized morality can lead to judgemental thinking which could damage relationships. On the other hand, a cynicism about authority could lead to defiant, aggressive behavior which could be problematic too.

I think it depends on context. Suppose the children lived in a society with an oppressive ruling class, or in a chaotic, violent society or a society limited by class or racial distinctions. In such societies (most societies, perhaps), a pragmatic approach to power and authority could benefit children hugely as they grow into adults, which would mean that child A would benefit more than child B.

Language, Culture, Propaganda

Westerners are unusual in the way they tend to put their children to sleep in separate room from the parents. People in most other cultures are horrified by this and studies have linked it to bad outcomes such as anxiety and even increased infant mortality. (2,3,4) UNICEF acknowledges that co-sleeping is good for children, but if you search on its website, there are only TWO references to this issue, while there are 720 for corporal punishment (6). This report about funding for UNICEF shows that only 9% of funding for the organization is unearmarked - that is, the vast majority for funding is given for a particular purpose. It's very likely that more funding is provided for the issue of corporal punishment (consistent with Western internalized morality) than for co-sleeping (inconsistent with Western internalized morality). (7)

Would you rather be slapped on the leg or shut in your room? I'd prefer to be slapped, and so would most American college students. (8) "Time out" sounds so nice, but it could legitimately be called "isolation punishment". Conversely, "corporal punishment" could be called "kinaesthetic feedback" without falsehood. Even the language we use about this issue is judgmental.


Whenever you see fund-raising marketing for developing country charities, there's always pictures of adorable, non-white babies looking adorable and vulnerable. We want to save the children!

The thing is, everyone wants to save the children. Even their own families do. Instinct towards protecting and nurturing children is a universal quality in the human race. We wouldn't have survived otherwise. Intelligence is also universal (at the cultural/population level).

The evidence isn't nearly strong enough to counterbalance this.

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks again to Garbanza for joining me in this debate. As per the agreed upon structure, I will use this round to rebut Pro's case, i.e., her round one comments.


-- Parental Ignorance Theory --

Pro essentially uses this portion of her argument to set up the following argument:

P1. Most Parents Use Corporal Punishment
P2. Parents Know what is Best for Their Child
C1. Corporal Punishment is Best for Their Child

I have no objection to P1, but I do have several objections to P2, which I would now like to discuss. In particular, I have three objections to raise: (1) that this line of reasoning employs a logical fallacy, (2) that there are valid psychological reasons for why parent's may not know what is actually best for their child, and (3) that expert opinion has greater validity than lay opinion.

To begin, Pro's argument employs two logical fallacies that I can see. First, it is ad populum fallacy. Such a fallacy assume that because most people believe X, X must, by virtue of this common acceptance, be true. [9] When Galileo first posited that the solar system was heliocentric vice geocentric, he was challenging a commonly held belief. [10] Were we to employ ad populum reasoning to Galileo's situation, we would conclude that because most people believed in geocentrism, that geocentrism must be valid. Clearly, science has proven just the opposite: geocentrism is false, and heliocentrism is accurate. [10] So, despite going against the majority, Galileo was right. Pro falls into this logical abyss when she claims that because most parents use or support corporal punishment, that if follows that corporal punishment must be beneficial to the child. It's a textbook fallacy, and should not be accepted as a valid argument within the debate.

Secondly, P2 rests on the faulty assumption that parents will necessarily know what is in their child's best interests. This argument really is just barely asserted, and thus false under the Ipse Dixit fallacy. [11] Pro writes, "in general, people act in their own best interests and in the best interests of their children." Pro offers no underlying reasoning to back this up, she simply assumes it's validity. Perhaps I can grant that people act in what they think is there best interest, but that is different from actually acting in there best interest. Consider, when I wake up on a cold, wet, rainy day feeling tired, I have two options: (1) miss class, and (2) stay in bed. I am not ill, and I am awake enough to function proficiently. Logically, action (2) is in my best interests in the long term, but many people still choose to do action (1) because it feels better in the moment. Why? Because the harms of not doing (2) are temporally distant, while the benefits of (1) are temporally immediate it makes it hard for us to judge clearly the costs and benefits of that choice. [12] Similarly, parents might see a child's short-term correction in behavior when spanked as a good thing, but they may not properly weigh that short-term benefit against the long-term harms, because those harms are temporally distant and, thus, do not feel as urgent or as potent. My point here is simple: we can say that parents generally act in ways that they believe are best, but their beliefs may not be substantiated; their beliefs may not be what are actually best.

Next, there are real psychological reasons why parents may deceive themselves into buying into the efficacy of corporal punishment. Those beliefs are grounded in the psychological concept of cognitive dissonance. "In countries such as the US and UK, spanking is legal but overt child abuse is both illegal and highly stigmatized socially. Because of this, any parent who has ever spanked a child would find it extremely difficult to accept the research findings. If they did acknowledge, even in the smallest way, that spanking was harmful, they would likely feel they are admitting they harmed their own child and thus are a child abuser. Similarly, adults who were spanked as children often face similar cognitive dissonance, because admitting it is harmful might be perceived as accusing their parents of abuse and might also be admitting to having been victimized in a situation where they were helpless to stop it. Such feelings would cause...them to dismiss the scientific evidence in favor of weak anecdotal evidence." [4]

Finally, we should prefer expert opinions, such as those of psychologists, statisticians, educational experts, etc. over the lay opinions offered by parents. We should prefer the former for three reasons: (1) parents are not objective observers of their own behaviors, and so while they can report on some objective facts (e.g. whether they use corporal punishment or not), they are not qualified to make statements regarding subjective conclusions (e.g. whether their disciplinary practices were effective); (2) parents, unlike experts, have not received the training to be able to effectively make credible claims of this nature or to evaluate statistical data; and (3) parent's only have a limited set of data to evaluate, whereas researchers can tap into much larger numbers to more accurately gauge trends. I will talk more about what precisely experts think as the round goes on.

For these reasons, Pro's syllogism can be rejected. It relies on ad populum logic; falsely assumes that parent's are not ignorant or self-deceptive regarding corporal punishment; and it assumes that parent's know best, when they are not the experts in the field.

-- Parenting Styles --

Pro claims that parenting styles are culturally subjective. Let's assume for one second that this is true, and that authoritarian parenting styles work for some cultures. Does it follow that corporal punishment works in some cultures? Actually, it does not follow. Just because a parent is authoritarian does not mean that they employ corporal punishment. It merely means that they are strict, punitive, and restrictive. [13] A parent can be all of these things without employing corporal punishment. So, Pro is drawing a false equivalence (a logical fallacy) to assert that because authoritarian parenting styles work, corporal punishment must work too. It could also be considered a fallacy of division, where one assumes that because something P is true of X (with parts A, B, and C), that P is also true of A. [14]

Furthermore, it is not clearly that authoritarian parenting styles really are more effective for some groups. Pro's source 6 only pulls from three countries (cherry-picking), and writes, "academic achievement was negatively related to academic authoritarianism." [Pro's Source 6, R1] Moreover, this source does not show causality, merely it illustrates a relationship. Pro's source 7 talks about how Chinese Americans do better with authoritarian styles than do European Americans. Yet, a study analyzing those same groups of children came to the exact opposite conclusion, noting that kids who underwent authoritarian styles in both groups, suffered "depressive symptoms...similar to those whose parents who are very harsh." [15]

Please also note that most of the research I cited in my R2 comments controlled for racial, socioeconomic, and other possible confounding variables to reach highly reliable conclusions. Pro correctly points out that some of my points don't show causality, but her own studies have this same pitfall, and since it she has the BOP, this is more serious for her than for me. But, I'll get to this much more next round. Though, it does make sense that if one sees authority figures act violently, observational learning would lead to more violence. Studies bear this out. [16]

-- Outcomes --

Pro talks quite a bit about the use of corporal punishment in the African American community. Pro claims that this is a confounding variable that impacts a study's finding because African Americans are more likely to suffer other problems that may result in emotional or delinquency issues later in life. Firstly, unless Pro can prove this problem specifically effects the studies I've cited, it's really a moot point. Secondly, Pro saying that I can't prove that corporal punishment is bad is not the same as Pro proving corporal punishment is beneficial. Unless Pro can do the latter, she cannot win because she bears all of the BOP. In other words, this line of argumentation does not help her directly meet her BOP in any way, and even if it's true, she can still lose.

-- My Concluding Thoughts ---

Pro's case is based on a series of fallacies, faulty assumptions, and preemptive arguments that do not bolster her own case. Regarding the fallacies, her case is littered with ad populum, bare assertion, cherry-picking, false equivalency, and division logical errors. She also incorrectly assumes that parents know what is best for their children--parents believe they know best, but belief is different from knowledge. Pro needs to show the latter, but, as yet, has really only gotten at the former. Finally, many of her arguments are designed to preemptively rebut what I might've said. That may work strategically when the BOP is shared, but even if my case was totally annihilated at the end of the day, or if I didn't offer a case, I could still win so long as Pro's case wasn't shown to be true "on balance." That is what bearing the sole BOP entails for Pro. Thus, I can see no recourse but to urge a ballot for Con. Thank you. I turn things back over to Garbanza.


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12 - Inspired by Plato's dialogue, "Meno."
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Con has accused me of a few different fallacies. I'll go through them one by one.

Ad populum

Imagine a debate resolution, "On balance, vanilla icecream is more delicious than strawberry", and Pro provided evidence that 5x more vanilla icecream is sold around the world than strawberry, which is strong evidence that people prefer vanilla. Con could cite studies from "taste specialists" that strawberry is actually more delicious - there could even be a deliciousness formula that proves it. He could conclude that people around the world are wrong and ignorantly thinking they prefer vanilla when really strawberry is more delicious.

When weighing those two arguments, it's not a fallacy to fall on the side of Pro. The difference between this example, and Con's Galileo example, is the basis of knowledge and expertise. We recognize that each person is an expert on what she herself finds delicious, and more of an expert than some taste specialist in another country. Each person has direct experience with tasting icecream, but not necessarily with the shape of the solar system.

Indeed, I think it would be a fallacy to appeal to authority when the overwhelming evidence is that people prefer vanilla. Unless we look very carefully at the reasons for those expert opinions, they are only opinions whereas the sales of icecream are actual evidence of preference and behavior.

That's why I fall on the side of Pro on this issue too. I think that parents in a better position to know what benefits their own children than are "experts" who live in another community or even another continent, who have never met the children in question. If the experts has substantial evidence to back up their opinions, it would be another matter, perhaps, but they don't for reasons I've been explaining.

Ipse Dixit

Con argues that it's possible parents are ignorant or acting wrongly. It's true that a majority of parents around the world using corporal punishment and/or approving of its use is not proof that it benefits children, but it is supporting evidence that it benefits children. This evidence is to be weighed against the evidence against.

However, when we say that parents are "acting wrongly" or against their child's best interests, we're using our own standards of comparison, because of course there is no one objective standard of benefit.

Here's an extreme example to show you what I mean. Suppose a child is born into slavery. Would it be better to raise that child to be obedient and sweet and thereby avoid trouble from the slaveowners, or would it be better to raise the child to have internal pride and courage that may one day help him gain freedom? It's hard to decide without knowing the exact circumstances and the possibilities for freedom in the future, etc. It's not a simple decision.

For any child, "benefit" is complex. It could include health, safety, interpersonal relationships, social status, education, material benefits, and many other factors which could be in direct conflict with each other. In other words, these sorts of decisions are best left in the hands of people who are intimately involved in the exact circumstances of the child's life.

In his sociocultural analysis of physical punishment, Arthur Whaley argues that the reason why the outcomes are so different in African American and European American communities is partly due to the way those communities relate to authority. He writes:

"Spanking may have originally functioned as a means of teaching children to respect power and authority to protect them from greater harm by violating social rules... Although the consequences are often not as severe as during the era of slavery, contemporary experiences with legal authorities reflect the same concerns. A common saying in the Black community is "I'd rather my child get a beating from me than from the police." Belsky (1993) aptly pointed out that the Rodney King beating was evidence in support of the assertion that violation of societal rules has graver consequences for African Americans." (1)

A study of physical punishment in Hispanic communities reached the same conclusion, that ecological context was more important than cultural habits per se. (2) In other words, parents are sensitive to their circumstances. What works for white, suburban middle-class parents may or may not be appropriate for parents in other circumstances.

On balance, parents are in the best position to assess potential benefits for their children.

Cherry picking
Con has accused me of cherry picking evidence and so here is a review and summary of cultural differences in the effects of physical punishment by Jennifer Lansford at Duke University (3). In this article, Lansford weighs up the evidence of cultural differences in the effects of physical punishment, and especially the evidence that when it is considered a part of normal, caring parental behavior, any bad effects are offset.

Interestingly, Lansford ends up siding with the UN that in the absence of strong evidence of benefits, there should be a global ban, rather weakly arguing that because there is no strong evidence of benefit (although few very - if any - studies have ever attempted to find any) banning it would be consistent with the UN's broader policies.

In other words, her review shows a strong evidence of sociocultural differences in the use and effects of corporate punishment, but a global ban makes sense politically.

Lack of evidence

As I explained earlier, experimental studies in this area are impossible and therefore, causality CANNOT be established. Con concedes that "some" of his studies do not establish cause, but this isn't concession enough. NO study can establish cause because children cannot be randomly assigned to parents and parents cannot be randomly assigned to punishment or no punishment conditions and certainly not in any kind of double-blind set up. It's impossible.

Con also claims that "most of the research I cited in my R2 comments controlled for racial, socioeconomic, and other possible confounding variables to reach highly reliable conclusions." This is just laughable. If it came from an experience researcher, it would be an outright lie. You cannot control for "other possible confounding variables" with an observational study, and these are ALL observational studies. You need to randomly assign subjects to experimental conditions to control for confounding variables, and as I've already explained, that is impossible.

Let's take the example of aggression, and the observed link between aggression and corporal punishment. Con's sources were almost entirely demographically restricted cross-sectional studies. That means that mostly white adolescents or adults were given surveys to measure their aggression and whether they experienced physical punishment as children, or possibly their parents were asked to report on physical punishment. A link is found. There are dozens of potential explanations.

1. Corporal punishment leads to increased aggression (everyone's favorite),
2. People who are more aggressive are more likely to use corporal punishment, and children grow up like their parents.
3. Violent societies require people to be aggressive to survive, and corporal punishment is a good way to raise children in those societies
4. The sorts of people who claim that they're aggressive on a survey, are also more likely to claim that physical punishment was used in their families.
5. The sorts of people who care about impression management are more likely to deny aggressive behavior AND being spanked as a child.
6. Physical punishment is more acceptable in some cultures than others, and those cultures also have a higher incidence of aggressive behavior for unrelated reasons.

That's just off the top of my head. I could keep going, but the point is, causality cannot be established.

This debate and BoP

Con has argued that if causality cannot be established, then I am in a worse position than him because I have BoP. However, I'm not arguing on those lines.

My argument is very simple. Most parents around the world use corporal punishment. It is more popular is some cultures than others and in particular it is unpopular in white, western, educated communities, which are also the people who are running the studies and trying to advocate for it to be banned in the rest of the world.

When we look at the evidence, though, it is inconclusive although it's clear that outside white, Western communities, the "bad" effects are greatly diminished. In any case, it's not clear that "aggression", "delinquency", and refusal to "internalize morality" are anything other than judgmental, subjective outcomes made up by cultural imperialists anyway. Con has provided no evidence that children do not benefit by behaving aggressively in an oppressive or violent society, for example.

Therefore, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, criticism of physical punishment is just opinion, and because of the cultural circumstances, it looks like prejudice. I have the BoP, but I've shown that most parents around the world use it. Parents are the most motivated to benefit their children, and they are in the best position to judge benefit in their particular circumstances. Without evidence to the contrary, it's enough to uphold the burden. As I said at the beginning, it's not strong, but it's enough.


Debate Round No. 3


Thanks again to Garbanza. As per the agreed structure, I will use this round to address Pro's R2 comments in order to defend my case.


-- The Resolution --

My opponent does not contest my interpretation of the BOP and of the phrase "on balance" in the resolution. Please extend analysis. Pro does discuss how something might benefit both the child and the parent. Certainly, actions of this nature occur, but my point was not that any action that benefited incidentally the parent was somehow irrelevant. My point was that something has weight in this debate only insofar as it benefits the child.

For instance, if Pro showed us 10 examples, and in each, parents received 60% of the benefit, and children received 40%, and I showed you 10 examples with the opposite ratio, assuming all else was equal, my examples would outweigh Pro's examples. This is because we are assessing how corporal punishment affects the child, and so while there may be positive impacts regarding the parents, any discussion of those impacts would be red-herrings in this debate.

But, Pro's thoughts here are interesting, in that we can extrapolate that parents may have ulterior motives to using corporal punishment; i.e. it is easy for parents to employ corporal punishment to ensure quick obedience, and so they may employ it for their own convenience, vice for any benefits it may or may not pose for the child. Again, this just is another line of reasoning undermining Pro's core claim that most parents act in their children's best interests.

Parents may be acting in what they falsely believe to be in their children's best interests or they may be acting out of convenience to themselves or out of some combination thereof, but we cannot simply assume, as Pro does, that parents are indeed acting in their children's best interests when it comes to corporal punishment.

Pro then advances the following argument: "that's enough to accept that corporal punishment benefits children in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary." But that is not the way this debate is structured. Pro has the sole BOP. So even if I showed no compelling evidence to the contrary, as long as Pro had no compelling evidence of her own, she would still lose the debate. She has to prove the resolution true; I do not have to prove the resolution is false. I just have to prevent Pro from showing that the resolution is true.

-- Experiment Design --

Sure, a correlational study doesn't establish causation, but taken in tandem with expert opinion on the subject, it does establish a strong case that corporal punishment is the likely cause, and thus not beneficial to children. Consider, I find that there is a high correlation between dropping out of high school and low wages later in life. This experiment doesn't prove causation, but if I also pair this evidence with expert testimony about how dropping out has an adverse impact on your job prospects, common sense seems to indicate that the former is likely to cause the latter. I would suggest that in the absence of any compelling confounding variables presented by Pro, that we can conclude, based on the evidence I already introduced, that corporal punishment is most likely the cause of the adverse effects I mentioned. I'll get into this more as I go on.

Moreover, inasmuch as Pro has the BOP, it is her job to establish the causality of benefits more so than it is mine to show the causality of harms. If Pro is unable to show that corporal punishment causes benefits for/to the child, than Pro has lost.

I think it is also important to note now that it is possible in some types of correlational studies to control for variables. [17, 18, 19, 20] While I am by no means a statistician, it does seem to stand to reason that correlational studies can control for variables by excluding, manipulating, or keeping constant a certain set of data. "Partial correlation analysis involves studying the linear relationship between two variables after excluding the effect of one or more independent factors...The partial correlation studied between two variables by keeping the third variable constant is called a first order co-efficient, as one variable is kept constant...The partial correlation analysis assumes great significance in cases where the phenomena under consideration have multiple factors influencing them, especially in physical and experimental sciences, where it is possible to control the variables and the effect of each variable can be studied separately." [21]

Therefore, it is possible that some of my correlational studies have controlled for confounding variables. The presence of confounding variables is one of two main arguments against my studies, the other being a lack of causation. I have now addressed, in big-picture format, both of these concerns.

-- Two Children --

Pro writes: "He learns that there are three ways to escape punishment...2. avoid authority; 3. be the authority." In other words, corporal punishment doesn't instill respect for rules as such as long as one can avoid being caught and/or one is powerful enough to obviate any penalty. Those are not lessons we want to pass on to our children--we want to develop our children into moral human beings, not conniving human beings that have no qualms breaking the rules when they think it's smart to do so.

Pro is also oversimplifying what my "sources are talking about." My sources note that corporal punishment teaches people to be victims, it promotes unquestioning acceptance of authority, it promotes a person's view of society as being threatening (leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness, etc.), it impedes parent-child communication, and it tells kids that violence is okay as long as you can get away with it. [5]

Pro also notes that, "It really isn't obvious whether Child A or Child B benefits more." Well, it is Pro's job to show that Child A does benefit more. If she fails to do that, she has not upheld her burden. This sentence seems almost a tacit admission of the fact that this example she is drawing does nothing to help her uphold her BOP within this round.

-- Propaganda --

Pro has no evidence that more money is actually spent on corporal punishment research at UNICEF than on co-sleeping. Perhaps the abundance of reports reflects experts' concern that the former can lead to physical as well as emotion injuries to the child, whereas the scope of the possible harms isn't as great or severe as in the latter. But really, this is just a red-herring, and the impact of this point is never mentioned within the debate. Without any visible, weighable impact, this argument is irrelevant within the context of our discourse.

Again, preferences don't equate to real benefits, nor do semantics have any real bearing on the issue at hand.

-- Racism --

Since Pro doesn't really explain the scope of this argument, again, and fails to mention what impact it has, it is unclear what, if any relevance, the "save the children" example really has on the debate. Let's stick to relevant details, not red-herrings.

-- Summarization --

Correlational Studies have found all that Corporal punishment is related to:

1. Higher levels of aggression
2. Higher levels of criminality
3. Poorer mental health
4. Reduced gray matter in the prefrontal lobe
5. Lower educational performance
6. Inability to adjust to the adult world
7. More Physical Injury
8. Higher rates of Unsafe and Violent Sex
9. More Antisocial Behavior
10. And greater tolerance for using violence against others.

These are all significant negative impacts. My two primary studies [2, 3] both controlled for potential confounding variables, further increasing the likelihood of their accuracy and of a direct connect between corporal punishment and the outcomes listed above. Ultimately, the sheer weight of the evidence is astounding, as is the consensus amongst all of these studies.

Various expert groups agree that corporal punishment is detrimental:

1. American Academy of Pediatrics
3. National Association of Social Workers
4. American Psychoanalytic Association
6. American Psychiatric Association [22]

Given that not only the studies I cited strongly point to corporal punishment having ill-effects, but also because expert analysis and opinion corroborates these studies, I think, after a preponderance of the evidence, we can conclude that corporal punishment is not beneficial for children.

Also, please note that many of Pro's assertions throughout this debate have merely been unwarranted claims or opinions. We cannot give much, if any, weight to such statements because they could just as easily be false as true.

Thank you. I now turn the floor back over to Garbanza. I would kindly remind her that R4 is her last chance to post, and that in R5 she should merely type "pass" or "no round as agree upon" or something of that nature.


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The resolution

On balance, parental use of corporal punishment is beneficial for the child

Most parents around the world use corporal punishment - therefore it is probably in the best interests of the child.

Con argues that we can't assume a link between the two parts of that ^ statement. I agree that we can't be 100% sure it's true, but that without evidence to the contrary, I think it is reasonable to take it as probably true. Con has presented some evidence to the contrary, but it is too weak to outweigh the commonsense interpretation that people act in their own best interests.

Suppose we were watching birds feeding their chicks in their nests, and stuffing them with regurgitated worms. If we saw parent birds of that species do it year after year we would assume that it's beneficial to baby chicks to be stuffed with worms in that way. If we see people walk a particular way to work day after day, we would assume it's in their best interests to commute along that route, even if we personally would have chosen another. That's because we acknowledge that we may not know our colleague's reasons fro choosing the route: she might like the shortest way, the prettiest way, the way that goes past the bakery, there's no way of knowing.

Of course, they might be wrong, but it would take detailed evidence to show that. In the absense of such evidence, we can go with the assumption that people know what's good for them.

Parents vs children

Con talks as if parents' and childrens needs are in opposition. This is false, because families act as cooperative units. As I showed in a previous round, obedience from a child can make it easier for a mother to complete her tasks, but it is highly likely that those tasks are for the child's benefit. Even if good behavior makes a mother calmer and happier, it will improve the family dynamic which is also in children's best interests.

Con writes: For instance, if Pro showed us 10 examples, and in each, parents received 60% of the benefit, and children received 40%, and I showed you 10 examples with the opposite ratio, assuming all else was equal, my examples would outweigh Pro's examples.

Of course, benefit can't be divided up in that way, and even if it could be, if a child only receives 10% of the benefit, she is still benefitting. Besides, the opposite ration would be the child benefitting by 60%, so I'm not sure what Con is saying exactly.


Most parents use corporal punishment. As that has been established and not contested, it stands as evidence that corporal punishment benefits children because it is based on two very common sense assumptions: that people know what's best for them, and that parents want what's best for their children, on the whole.

I appreciate that this is a weak argument. It's very weak, and it wouldn't take much for us to change our minds. However, the evidence against is even weaker, and is not enough.

The evidence against consists mostly of prejudice and the authority fallacy.


I do have a lot of sympathy with the prejudice against physical punishment, because as I said at the beginning, we don't do ANY kind of punishment in my family, and I have issues with imposed authority in general. Of course the idea of a great big hairy adult belting a little child seems horrible. It does to me, anyway.

However. A lot of things seem horrible to me that other people take as quite normal, and I won't list them here for fear of offending people. Consider ear-piercing and male circumcision, which are actions that physically harm children, but which are often culturally accepted. Also, consider isolated sleeping and bottle feeding, actions that have been shown to be harmful for children with much better established evidence than for physical punishment. But. Who could argue anything except that a mother's well-being is beneficial for her child? The two can't be separated as Con claims, so to consider a child's interests, the mother's interests and the family as a whole need to be considered.

Appealing to authority

Con appeals to some very impressive authorities including the American Academy of Pediatrics and UNICEF. If we didn't have time to think through this issue, then of course we would defer to such authorities. And personally, the combination of prejudice against punishment of children, combined with the backing of these authorities would normally be enough for me to take something on board.

It was enough for Jennifer Lansford, whose review I mentioned last round. She collected evidence that showed that any effects of physical punishment are mediated by cultural norms, so that it has much worse effects in white western culture than it does elsewhere, but then in her conclusion argues that UNICEF's policy is going to change norms and so it we can expect a change in the effects of physical punishment worldwide.

It's barefaced cultural imperialism. It is.

And BECAUSE of that, we need to look carefully at the reasons why those authorities have reached those conclusions. It's all on record, and we find pretty quickly that it's based on evidence ONLY for white, western cultures. In short, physical punishment is bad in our culture, and so we're going to make sure that nobody does it.

Lack of evidence

Parents spank their children in kindergarten, and ten years later those children are more likely to get in trouble with the police. White parents are less likely to spank their children. White children are less likely to be aggressive and get in trouble.

The difference at adolescence is because white parents are better parents and spank less. Seriously. That's the evidence and the argument against physical punishment

OF COURSE it's ludicrous. That's what happens when you infer causality from observational studies.

Con has made all kinds of claims about "controlling for" other variables. It's impossible. For example, I could say, hey, white people are also richer. Let's control for income. Yes, you could do that statistically in theory, but of course researchers almost never do and there's not much point because income is only one of the differences between the experiences of black children and white children between the ages of 4 and 14. There's socialization, language, cultural symbolism, education, relationships, stereotypes, peer influence, attitudes of authorities and countless other variables. They can't all be anticipated, and even if they could be, they can't all be measured and quantified in any kind of reasonable way.

So to pick from that huge jungle of variables and say, it's PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT that makes all the difference, is just funny. Or it would be, if people weren't doing it. Look at the claims. Spanking makes people criminals! It leads to unsafe sex! Inability to adjust to the adult world! Oh please. Really? Spanking a four year old makes them unable to adjust to the adult world 14 years later? I don't think so.

Different benefits

Parents raise their children in different ways around the world because the circumstances of their lives are different. Children who grow up in chaotic or violent societies need to have different approaches to authority and different skills than those who are born into American middle-class suburbs. Some have to go out and scavenge for food from a young age, some have to defend themselves and their families from threats that we can't imagine. Some may well need to be aggressive. Some societies have much more formal social relationships and obedience to form is essential for any kind of interaction. There is no end to the variation of social and physical circumstances of human life.

Con writes: "corporal punishment doesn't instill respect for rules as such as long as one can avoid being caught and/or one is powerful enough to obviate any penalty. Those are not lessons we want to pass on to our children--we want to develop our children into moral human beings, not conniving human beings that have no qualms breaking the rules when they think it's smart to do so."

Yes, those are lessons that HE doesn't want to pass on to HIS children, because he has a good understanding about what skills and attitudes are best for living in his own society. But other parents in other circumstances may well, legitimately, want their children to have a different attitude towards authority, rules and breaking them. He needed to prove that those sorts of attitudes are NEVER beneficial to children, no matter what the circumstances, and he hasn't.

Burden of Proof: summary

This debate feels weird because of the way burden of proof is assigned. BoP naturally falls on the person with the positive assertion or who challenges the status quo. In relation to physical punishment, the status quo is its existence and the BoP would be on the people who want it banned.

However, this debate has it around the other way. I have the BoP to show that it's beneficial to children and I have presented a weak argument. I have said that we should trust parents to know what their children need. Con has said this is a bare assertion, but it is more than that.

Parents have full legal control over their children. They can give them healthy food or not. They can speak to them kindly or not. They can take them to the library and get books for them or not. We DEEM parents as people who act in their children's best interests. It's in the very fabric of the way society is put together. If it's an assumption I make, it's also an assumption that the whole world makes and rightly so. No wholesale intervention between that relationship between parent and child has been anything other than disastrous for the children. Parents really are the best people to act in their children's best interests.

Thank you
To my opponent bsh1 for this debate!
Debate Round No. 4


Thanks again to Garbanza for a great debate. At this time, I will discuss the BOP issue, and then I will address Pro's case.


-- Burden of Proof --

Pro writes, "BoP naturally falls on the person with the positive assertion." There are two main types of claims typically up for debate: positive and normative. Normative statements are about what should be, whereas "positive statements focus around what is." [23] The resolution is a positive claim. It is asking whether something is beneficial--i.e., it is asking "what is" the case. If the resolution were whether corporal punishment should be used, then it would be a normative claim, because it is asking "what should be." Thus, Pro has the BOP for two reasons: (a) she accepted the sole BOP when she accepted the debate, and (b) because Pro agrees that people defending positive claims ought to have the BOP, and Pro is defending the positive claim.

Thus, Pro needs to show that (a) corporal punishment has benefits to the child, (b) that the benefits are more than (not equal to or less than) the harms, and (c) that the benefits Pro is claiming are actually caused by the use of corporal punishment. If Pro fails to do any one of these things, Pro hasn't met her BOP, and has lost the debate.

-- Parental Ignorance Theory --

Ad populum

Pro suggests that there are some topics which require or permit ad populum-style arguments. Pro never denies that her arguments are ad populum, she merely contends that it doesn't matter if they are, because under this type of resolution, ad populum arguments make sense.

Pro's analysis of the ice cream is flawed for several reasons. First, it is a false analogy. Asking which ice cream is more delicious is asking, inherently, a question of opinion. There is no real objective way to assess deliciousness, since what I find delicious others might not; it's completely arbitrary. I LOVE strawberry ice cream, but most people I know would prefer vanilla; we just have different tastes. Thus, the question of the most delicious ice cream is indeed a question of preference. We measure such opinion through polls, and so popular opinion matters. Similarly, if we were to debate "Is Hillary Clinton more Popular than Mitt Romney," we would necessarily have to use ad populum arguments because of the nature of the question. Yet, the resolution is not a question of opinion, as it can be answered through non-opinion based mechanisms. For example, the question "does solar energy save money" can be answered through quantifiable statistics and mathematical/financial analyses. It would be absurd to take a poll of people and use that as evidence one way or the other, because those people's opinions are not nearly as credible as the hard evidence. This goes back to what I said about Galileo before--that just because most people believe X, that doesn't make X true. Regarding the resolution at hand, since Pro could call upon statistics or other types of evidence (even expert opinions are more reliable than those of lay people), and therefore it does not make sense for her to use corporal punishments general popularity, namely among lay people, to assert that it is beneficial. What is the ultimate takeaway here? This resolution is not the type of resolution that can be supported effectively by ad populum arguments. In fact, using ad populum arguments in this context is a fallacy, and so ad populum claims should be summarily dismissed. The opinions of people do not prove that it is beneficial, hard evidence does. So, since Pro hasn't offered any hard evidence, she can't prove corporal punishment is beneficial.

Secondly, Pro accuses me of an appeal to authority--but this is not a problem in this case. I gave three reasons earlier in this debate to prefer expert opinion to lay opinion; I will repeat them here: "(1) parents are not objective observers of their own behaviors, and so while they can report on some objective facts (e.g. whether they use corporal punishment or not), they are not qualified to make statements regarding subjective conclusions (e.g. whether their disciplinary practices were effective); (2) parents, unlike experts, have not received the training to be able to effectively make credible claims of this nature or to evaluate statistical data; and (3) parent's only have a limited set of data to evaluate, whereas researchers can tap into much larger numbers to more accurately gauge trends." in fact, Pro DROPPED all of these three points. Remember, as I just explained this resolution is not one that can be affirmed through simple majority opinion; it requires an analysis of the science of psychology as well as of the hard data that has been collected. Experts are best positioned to understand those data and the psychological concepts behind them. Therefore, we have good reason to value the opinion of experts over the opinion of parents. It could even be said that Pro is committing an appeal to non-authorities, whereby she incorrectly asserts that parents are authorities on this topic, when, for the reasons listed above, they are not.

I think Pro puts it best when she herself writes: "It's true that a majority of parents around the world using corporal punishment and/or approving of its use is not proof that it benefits children"

Appeals to authority are only fallacies when: (a) there is no reason to prefer their opinion to that of a laymen's (e.g. the ice cream example), or (b) we assume that the experts are true just because they are experts, without looking at why they might come to their conclusions. In this case, my argument meets neither (a) nor (b) as I have justified why we should prefer expert opinion and as I have show studies and discussed the psychology behind their reasoning. Thus, I am not committing a fallacy, whereas Pro his (ad populum).

Ipse Dixit

None of Pro's arguments here (i.e. the slavery case and Whaley) really clash with either of the two points I brought up. My points were (1) parents may act in ways they believe to be in a child's best interest, but that isn't the same as acting in the child's best interests; particularly, parents may act in ways that bring immediate benefit, without realizing or properly weighing the long-term harms thereof, and (2) the cognitive dissonance hinders parent's ability to realize the harmfulness of their actions. That is why we should defer to experts, because they are best positioned to make these kinds of decisions, and because the correlational evidence strongly supports the conclusions they have made.

-- Parenting Styles --

Pro DROPS that authoritarian parenting does not necessarily imply the use of corporal punishment. So, even if you buy that authoritarian styles may be good in some cultures, you are given no reason to believe from this study that corporal punishment is beneficial (as that leap would employ the fallacy of division.)


The earlier study I cited [15] directly contradicts what Pro says Lansford is saying about the sociocultural differences. But, even if you buy that some cultures may derive benefits from such practices, that doesn't prove that "on balance," i.e. for most people, it is beneficial. Moreover though, Pro admits that Lansford acknowledges that there is little evidence for the benefit of corporal punishment, and calls for a global ban on the practice.

Lack of Evidence

I explained last round how my studies could indeed control for variables even though they were correlational. So, if corporal punishment leads to bad outcomes even after controlling for things like socioeconomic status, natural aggression in the child, home life, or race, then (a) it doesn't seem imperialistic to draw the conclusions I am drawing, and (b) the correlations suddenly seem far more credible, and while they can't name a cause, they have ruled out other potential causes that Pro has suggested, further strengthening the argument that it is corporal punishment itself that leads to the bad outcomes I have discussed.


I think we can break this debate down fairly simply. The key question we need answered is whether Pro has met her BOP. If not, she has lost the debate, and a Con ballot is in order. Earlier, I identified three resolutional criteria we can use to measure whether Pro has met her BOP; let's review two of those now: (a) corporal punishment has benefits to the child, (b) that the benefits are more than (not equal to or less than) the harms. I will make these two of my three voting issues.

1. Corporal Punishment Does Not Benefit the Child

A vast number of correlational studies done on the subject show strong negative correlations between corporal punishment and negative outcomes (e.g. increased aggression, poor mental health, physical injury, etc.) Experts like the APA, UNICEF, and the NASW, who are better positioned to analyze the facts, agree (even as Pro's Langford source does) that corporal punishment should not be encouraged and is, on balance, a bad thing. This again only bolsters the case against corporal punishment, and it underscores that it is probably not beneficial. Pro has failed to fulfill this element of her burden.

2. Benefits vs. Harms

Pro has suggested that in some cultures corporal punishment may be useful. I have offered a study that contradicts this, and Pro's own sources waffle on this issue. Even if it were beneficial in some cultures, that doesn't mean it is good "on balance;" Pro has failed to show the scope of any potential benefits, so she has failed to show that these benefits apply "on balance." Pro has failed to fulfill this element of her burden too.

3. Fallacies

Pro's case is riddled with fallacies (bare assertion fallacies, false analogies, fallacies of division, and ad populum arguments.) Even if my case has holes, her case is so reliant on flawed logic, it cannot successfully affirm.

Please VOTE CON!


23 -


I argued first so I skip this round.
Debate Round No. 5
70 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ESocialBookworm 2 years ago
Reviewing this nao.
Posted by inSTALINwetrust 2 years ago
Posted by Garbanza 2 years ago
"While I find this an interesting discussion, it would probably be best if you do as well if we removed this to a forum post or a PM. I don't want bsh1 mad at me for cluttering his email inbox..."

Thanks for talking about this with me, bladerunner. I really want to figure it out. This kind of issue has been bugging me for a while, actually, even before this debate. That's why I accepted it, actually, to see if it could become clearer.
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
@Fantum - "Ebola" has really nothing to do with the topic of this debate, so, yeah, it's spam. But, if you want to talk about the subject at hand, feel free to do so.
Posted by FantumHeist 2 years ago
it's not spam I only used it once I can talk about the current subject if you wish
Posted by bsh1 2 years ago
@FantumHeist - Don't spam.
Posted by FantumHeist 2 years ago
#Ebola if you don't have it your not cool
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago
While I find this an interesting discussion, it would probably be best if you do as well if we removed this to a forum post or a PM. I don't want bsh1 mad at me for cluttering his email inbox...
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago


A bit of a disclaimer: We are, of course, going a bit further in directions the debate did not head. Which is fine--but I don't want it to seem that my vote was based on my opinion rather than the debate itself.

People are easily biased or blinded. People often follow tradition without rigorously questioning why. You say they've "come to the conclusion that CP is beneficial to their children", you say "It's not like believing the earth to be flat, which is knowledge that's passed around and just accepted. These millions of parents are making judgments from their own experiences."--but how did they *reach* that conclusion? Did they really base it on experience with rigor? If someone did a study showing that they reached it via a careful analysis of the effects of various discipline processes over both short and longer term, I'd be impressed. But, honest, I would find that to be an unexpected result. Look at the people who defended Adrian Peterson. It wasn't "He found the most effective way", it was "not hitting your kids = wussification!!11!!11"

Anecdotally, the most common justification I've heard is "My parents beat me, and I turned out fine!". While it may be true, that's not a rigorous outcome-based analysis of optimal strategies.

Certainly I'm not discounting the possibility, but what I'm saying is, given that we *know* bias is a thing and that it's difficult to overcome, I don't assume that it's been overcome unless there's a justification for that. It's why researchers go to som much trouble to try to outline exactly their methodology and assumptions, so that when its peer reviewed someoen can help point out a bias if possible--and even that isn't always a perfect method. Remember that we're talking trends, in general. So, for example, if these millions of parents were right, I would expect a trend of better behavior among the kids who were under corporal punishment--I would expect that these parents are "right" by some
Posted by bladerunner060 2 years ago

But there weren't any metrics that showed "better" outcomes after CP that you presented, and I honestly haven't seen any, though it's of course possible that some might exist (hence a debate on it).

As far as I can see, there's no prior plausibility, and what evidence is available shows worse outcomes. That people continue to do it anyway means that people are bad at being objective--but we know that.

"That people only want fairness and short waiting times when it comes to queuing" (is an assumption). "[Other factors are] a genuine preference..." Other factors are genuine preferences. But ask a dozen people in line what their priority is, and they'll say it's to get through the line as fast as possible. They will be wrongly reporting because of basic psychological trends in human nature. They will skew how long they waited if it's a system they don't like--in part because they aren't accepting the "real" reasons they're doing what they're doing.

Similarly, ask a dozen parents who use CP, and compare their answers to what the studies show, and I think there will be a conflict.

"I did show that CP improves short term compliance..."

Right, but that seemed pretty clearly washed out by the long-term effects. And I don't think most parents would say "All I'm looking for is short-term compliance, I don't care about long-term effects".

"You have to assume that parents are mostly acting in their children's best interests."

At most, based on the information you have, you can assume that they're generally TRYING to act in their children's best interests. Assuming that what they think is right, *IS* right, feeds into bias. Doctors try to have "science-based medicine", that is, to actually back up their courses of treatment with studies. We can assume most doctors want to do what's best for their patients, but we *know* that they can be wrong--hence the studies and so on, to find the generally *best* course of treatment.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by bladerunner060 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by YYW 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: This was a fairly lopsided debate; all the meaningful evidence on CON's side and various anecdotal objections on PRO's. CON demonstrated, overwhelmingly, clearly, and indisputably that corporal punishment results in a variety of bad outcomes. PRO more or less states the fact that a lot of people spank their kids and different cultures discipline their kids differently. So... a kid from some other culture is going to react differently than a kid in the first world who gets hit. PRO has essentially no substantive points that affirm the resolution. That parents have control over their kids doesn't mean that spanking is good or acceptable. That PRO disagrees with modern science and thinks parents should have the right to spank their kids does not mean that spanking is, as the resolution states, "beneficial to the child." To affirm would require a vacation of my senses by ignoring objective facts.