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The devastating effects of ordinary corporal punishment for educational purposes in France

Ordinary corporal punishment for educational purposes (in French "Violence éducative ordinaire", abbreviated VEO) includes any abuse of power exercised by an adult in a dominant position over a child. This also includes blows, blows to the rear, slaps, punishments, physical and psychological degradation. They also include promises that have not been kept, blackmail, manipulation, neglect ... (OVEO 2008). Corporal punishment has disastrous effects on child development. And it is largely authorized by French law.

One step forward, three steps back ...

On December 22nd, 2016, Parliament voted in favor of the prohibition of so-called common violence for educational purposes as part of the Loi Egalité et Citoyenneté (Law on Equality and Citizenship) project. Article 222 of the new text of the law excluded any cruel, degrading and degrading treatment, including any corporal punishment, including for so-called educational purposes, which had not previously been included.

With this ban, France finally joined the 51 states in the world, including 32 in Europe, that have passed such a law. This was at least partially (because no sanction is currently planned) as a result of which France was reprimanded by the Council of Europe in March 2015. This complaint states that France is not sufficiently clear, binding and precise Prohibition of corporal punishment and thus violates Article 17 of the European Social Charter, which states that its signatories must protect children and adults from neglect, violence and exploitation (Durand, 2016).

That was, even if only symbolic, a considerable step forward for children's rights. But it didn't last long, because just a month later the French Constitutional Court overturned the amendment, calling it a legal maneuver unrelated to the main subject of the law (Battaglia, Dupont, Jacquin, Rey-Lefebvre, 2017).

In France, the law only provides for the punishment of serious mistreatment. For many parents, the slap on the butt does not count as a spanking punishment: 50% of parents beat their children from the age of 2 years, 85% before they are 5 years old (Peyrach, 2016). Ordinary corporal punishment for educational purposes, however, is not only counter-productive, but also affects - sometimes significantly - the child's successful psychological and physical development.

Physical consequences.

This educational violence is referred to as 'ordinary' because it is perceived as banal, mostly daily, normal and tolerated, and is sometimes supported by society (Gueguen, 2014).
Dr. Catherine Gueguen, pediatrician at Institut Franco-Britannique von Levallois-Perret, specializes in non-violent communication and parental support. She is the author of the book “Pour une enfance heureuse, repenser l'éducation à la lumière des dernières découvertes sur le cerveau” (For a happy childhood, rethinking upbringing in the light of the latest findings on the brain), which shows how common it is Corporal punishment for educational purposes prevents the brain from developing optimally. It is learned that children who are regularly spanked are more violent than those who do not.

Several investigations have shown a connection between VEO and syndromes such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, anti-social behavior, crime, etc. These studies concentrated on so-called normal ‘families, i.e. families with drug-dependent or depressed parents or those with borderline behavior excepted. They clearly show that the more exposed a child is, the more violent it becomes (Taylor, Manganello, Lee, Rice, 2010). Hard blows with belts, straps, or other objects have scientifically measurable harmful after-effects. A study conducted at Harvard in 2009 found that the brain of a person who was beaten with a belt as a child shows a reduction in the volume of the prefontal cortex, which influences empathy, the ability to reflect on one's actions , attention and memory (Tomoda et al., 2009)

And psychological ...

Ordinary corporal punishment for educational purposes brings with it a plethora of psychological problems, some of which become noticeable late in adulthood: depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug addiction, lack of self-confidence, manias, etc. An education based on fear can do not lead to the expected results. Above all else, children see their parents as role models and give them full confidence. But when they express their disapproval or disappointment through anger and violence, the message becomes blurred: The child feels insecure, it is fearful and doubts. So distortions of reality and emotional aberrations occur. The people who love, encourage, and protect it are also the ones who beat, humiliate, and belittle it. Of course, blows to the bottom aren't the only ones responsible. Any threats, insults, extortions are harmful to the successful development of a child and only teach him malice and mendacity, because a beaten or humiliated child obeys orders only because he is afraid and continues his mischief in secret.

A change is necessary

Our children learn by example. Around the world, beating is widely accepted as part of a child's upbringing. 14% of French say they were victims of various forms of abuse in their childhood (Enfant Bleu, 2015), while 70% oppose an anti-corporal law (Kovacs, 2015). However, in France between 600 and 700 children die each year as a result of abuse within the family, that is 2 children a day (L’Enfant bleu Toulouse, n.d.). Even if at this stage it is no longer "a pat on the bottom", failing to enact a law against VEO means authorizing family violence, which everyone regards as a personal matter and which in some cases turns out to be massive. Contrary to popular belief, you can raise your children without violence, without them becoming unrestrained. On the contrary, children who feel respected turn out to be more respectful and empathetic on average and have more trust.

Because the future belongs to our children, and it is up to us to give them every opportunity to grow into balanced and happy adults, we must be aware of the devastating consequences and uselessness of ordinary corporal punishment for educational purposes. One of Dr. Catherine Gueguen, the organizations Observatoire de la violence éducative ordinaire and Stop Veo as well as Enfance sans violence petition to reinstate Article 222 of the Egalité et Citoyenneté law, is currently available on the Internet at Change.org.

For more information (French):

Written by: Enaëlle Deschamps
Translated by: Susanne Schröder
Proofreading by: Ines Kaltenbach (Jomot - Service de Langues & communication)



Battaglia, M., Dupont, G., Jacquin J.B., Rey-Lefebvre, I. (26/01/2017). l’amendement contre la fessée censurée par le Conseil Constitutionnel. [article de journal en ligne] Récupéré sur Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2017/01/26/fessee-ecole-hors-contrat-hlm-le-conseil-constitutionnel-censure- des-dispositions-du-texte-egalite-et-citoyennete_5069736_823448.html

Durand, A.-A. (13/07/2016). The fessée est interdite dans 51 pays… mais pas en France. [article de journal en ligne] Récupéré sur Le Monde: http://www.lemonde.fr/les-decodeurs/article/2016/07/13/la-fessee-bientot-interdite-en-france-elle-l- est-deja-dans-49-pays_4968864_4355770.html

Enfant Bleu (3/02/2015) Grand probe Harris-L’Enfant Bleu sur la maltraitance en France. [en ligne] Récupéré sur Enfant Bleu: http://www.enfantbleu.org/actualites/grand-sondage-harris-lenfant-bleu-sur-la-maltraitance-en-france

Gueguen, C. (2014). Pour une enfance heureuse. Paris: Robert LAFFONT.

Kovacs, S. (13/03/2015) Interdiction de la fessée: 70% des Français disent non. récupéré sur Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2015/03/13/01016-20150313ARTFIG00402-interdiction-de-la-fessee-70-des-francais-disent-non.php

L’Enfant bleu Toulouse (n.d.) Quelques chiffres sur la Maltraitance en France. Récupéré sur L’enfant bleu Toulouse: http://www.lenfantbleutoulouse.fr/quelques-chiffres-sur-la.html

OVEO (2008) La Violence Educative Ordinaire, qu’est-ce que c’est? [en ligne] Récupéré sur le site d’OVEO: http://www.oveo.org/la-violence-educative-ordinaire-quest-ce-que-cest/

Peyrach, A. (07/02/2016). La France pourrait finalement interdire la fessée. [article de journal en ligne] Récupéré sur Le Figaro: http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2016/07/02/01016-20160702ARTFIG00107-la-france-pourrait-finalement-interdire-la-fessee. php

Taylor, C.A., Manganello, J., Lee, S.J., Rice, J, C, (2010). Mother’s spanking of 3-year-old children and subsequent risk of children’s aggressive behavior. Pediatrics, 125, pp. 1057-1065

Tomoda, A.,. Suzuki, H., Rabi, K., Sheu, YS., Polcari, A., Teicher, M., (08/2009) Reduced prefrontal cortical gray matter volume in young adults exposed to harsh corporal punishment . Neuroimage, 47 (suppl. 2), pT66-T71