To examine the association between corporal punishment bans and youth violence at an international level.
Ecological study of low-income to high-income 88 countries.
School-based health surveys of students.
403 604 adolescents.
National corporal punishment bans.
Primary outcome measure
Age-standardised prevalence of frequent physical fighting (ie, 4+ episodes in the previous year) for male and female adolescents in each country.
Frequent fighting was more common in males (9.9%, 95% CI 9.1% to 10.7%) than females (2.8%, 95% CI 2.5% to 3.1%) and varied widely between countries, from 0.9% (95% CI 0.8% to 0.9%) in Costa Rican females to 34.8% (95% CI 34.7 to 35.0) in Samoan males. Compared with 20 countries with no ban, the group of 30 countries with full bans (in schools and in the home) experienced 69% the rate of fighting in males and 42% in females. Thirty-eight countries with partial bans (in schools but not in the home) experienced less fighting in females only (56% the rate found in countries without bans).
Country prohibition of corporal punishment is associated with less youth violence. Whether bans precipitated changes in child discipline or reflected a social milieu that inhibits youth violence remains unclear due to the study design and data limitations. However, these results support the hypothesis that societies that prohibit the use of corporal punishment are less violent for youth to grow up in than societies that have not.