A new Oxford study shows that corporal punishment is still common in countries where it is outlawed, and for the first time using data from low and middle-income countries, including India, it shows a link between smacking and poor school grades.
Researchers found that corporal punishment experienced by eight-year-old children is linked with lower mathematics scores when the same children reach the age of 12 as compared with their peers who did not report being hit.
The research based on surveys also reveals that boys and poorer children were the most likely to report being struck by their teachers. In India, the research was carried out in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The Young Lives study of childhood poverty drew on surveys with 8,000 children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. In India, nearly eight out of 10 eight-year-old children interviewed by researchers said they had been hit in the last week. More than nine out of 10 eight-year-old Indian children said they had seen someone else being struck in school that week.
In India, Vietnam and Peru, researchers found that children who reported experiencing corporal punishment when they were eight were associated with lower maths scores even after controlling for a range of child and household characteristics and when comparing children in the same community.
Lead researcher Kirrily Pells said: “The Young Lives longitudinal data tracks the same children throughout their childhood. This way, we were able to identify links between earlier experiences of corporal punishment and academic performance later in school.”
“Previous studies have found negative consequences associated with corporal punishment, including students being absent and feeling scared and confused. What’s new is that our results suggest that corporal punishment has a lasting impact on children’s education,” Pells added.