There are some significant differences between the home and school settings. Parents are more likely to have their children's interests close to heart and to love and care for them. Parents are also more likely to know their children better than teachers know their pupils. Teachers, after all, have relatively little contact with their pupils and the little they do have is usually in large classes. While some people are opposed to corporal punishment anywhere, even by parents in the home, others oppose only its practice outside the home. They might suggest that the differences between the home and the school are morally relevant and show why corporal punishment would be acceptable in the home but not in the school.
The topic of early peer relations is relevant to policy-makers and service-providers in the educational, social-service and mental-health sectors. In Western society, virtually all children are educated in the company of their peers; in some countries, such as the U.K., statutory education begins as early as four years of age. Problematic peer relations may have adverse effects on the transition to school, with subsequent consequences for academic success. Furthermore, even younger infants and toddlers often spend time with peers through informal arrangements between parents or formal child-care provision. There is considerable interest in the impact of early child care on development, but relatively few studies that actually investigate the quality of peer relations in the child- care context. It is especially important to study peer relations for children with special educational needs. The principle of “mainstreaming” children with special needs is based on the assumption that it is beneficial for such children to spend their days with typically developing peers; however, if those experiences are highly negative, experience with peers may interfere with educational goals.
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Clearly there are instances of abuse and of abusive physical punishment. But that is insufficient to demonstrate even a correlation between corporal punishment and abuse, and a fortiori a causal relationship. Research into possible links between corporal punishment and abuse has proved inconclusive so far. Some studies have suggested that abusive parents use corporal punishment more than nonabusive parents, but other studies have shown this not to be the case.7 The findings of one study,8 conducted a year after corporal punishment by parents was abolished in Sweden, suggested that Swedish parents were as prone to serious abuse of their children as were parents in the United States, where corporal punishment was (and is) widespread. These findings are far from decisive, but they caution us against hasty conclusions about the abusive effects of corporal punishment.