The following resources present research and literature differentiating among physical discipline, corporal punishment, and physical child abuse.
When Does Discipline Become Child Abuse?
Explains how Federal and State laws define physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. The page also includes information on what certain States consider reasonable and age-appropriate discipline.
Discipline versus physical abuse
The Difference Between Discipline and Abuse
Hamilton County Jon & Family Services (2020)
Discusses the signs of when parental discipline may be too excessive and cross the line into abuse and presents questions for parents to ask themselves, characteristics of abusive adults, and signs victims may show.
From Sticks to Flowers: Guidelines for Child Protection Professionals Working With Parents Using Scripture to Justify Corporal Punishment (PDF - 160 KB)
Zero Abuse Project (2017)
Presents information to help child protection professionals approach parents who cite religious justifications for the use of corporal punishment that potentially rises to the level of child abuse. The paper emphasizes the need for child protection professionals to understand parents' perspectives and acknowledge the importance of parents' religious beliefs.
What Is Considered Child Abuse?
Provides a guide for parents on when parental discipline crosses the line and is considered child abuse. The article discusses what is legally considered abuse, spanking as a form of discipline, and more.
What Is the Link Between Corporal Punishment and Child Physical Abuse?
Fréchette, Zoratti, & Romano (2015)
Journal of Family Violence, 30(2)
Examines the link between spanking and child physical abuse. The study looks at various parenting and family factors that could distinguish between spanking that is not abuse and spanking that is considered physically abusive.
Cultural context and ethnic differences
Spare the Kids: Because Disciplining Children Doesn't Have to Hurt
Provides information on why spanking should not be used to discipline children and is targeted mainly towards black communities. The website's mission is to use social media and basic early childhood development science to educate parents and caretakers about the risks and harms of hitting children. Dr. Stacey Patton, a former foster youth and child abuse survivor, delivers antispanking workshops across the country and has authored the book, Spare the Kids Why Whupping Children Won't Save Black America.
Strong Parents, Safe Kids: Discipline and Parenting Styles
Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance
Presents information on parenting styles, discipline, when discipline becomes abuse, and cultural influences of parenting.