Is Spanking Legal?

The legality of spanking (corporal punishment) children varies significantly around the world, reflecting diverse cultural, legal, and societal attitudes towards discipline. Many countries have enacted laws to protect children from all forms of physical punishment, in alignment with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which advocates for the protection of children from all forms of physical or mental violence. However, there are still numerous countries where spanking children by parents or guardians remains legal, either due to the lack of explicit legal prohibitions or through specific legal allowances for “reasonable chastisement” or similar terms.

Countries Where Spanking Children is Illegal

Over 60 countries have explicitly banned corporal punishment in all settings, including the home. These countries have recognized that spanking or any form of corporal punishment is incompatible with children’s rights to dignity and physical integrity. Examples include:

  • Sweden (the first to ban spanking in 1979)
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Brazil
  • Argentina

These bans are part of broader efforts to promote positive, non-violent discipline and child-rearing.

Countries Where Spanking Children Remains Legal

In contrast, there are many countries where spanking children by parents is still legal or not explicitly prohibited by law. In these countries, legislation may allow parents some form of “reasonable discipline” or “reasonable chastisement,” often leaving the interpretation of what is “reasonable” to the courts or social services. Examples of countries where spanking by parents, under certain conditions, remains legal include:

  • The United States (laws vary by state, with most allowing some form of corporal punishment in the home)
  • Canada (though with certain restrictions regarding the child’s age and the nature of the punishment)
  • The United Kingdom (spanking is allowed as “reasonable punishment,” though it is banned in Scotland and Wales)
  • Australia (laws vary by state, but corporal punishment by parents is generally allowed within certain limits)
  • Japan
  • South Korea

It’s important to note that the legal landscape is continually evolving as more countries and regions examine their laws regarding corporal punishment and children’s rights. Advocacy by child protection organizations, shifts in public opinion, and new research into the effects of corporal punishment on children are factors that contribute to changes in legislation.


The legality of spanking children reflects a complex interplay of cultural, societal, and legal factors. While a growing number of countries have moved to ban the practice in recognition of children’s rights and the negative impacts of corporal punishment, many still permit it under varying conditions. The trend, however, is increasingly towards legal reforms that protect children from all forms of physical punishment, promoting positive discipline strategies that foster respect, understanding, and communication between parents and children.