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Is Corporal Punishment Common in Latin America?

Published October 1, 2022 in Mexico , Miscellaneous Information - 0 Comments

A few weeks ago, I stumbled out of my bedroom to go downstairs to take a massive shit after waking up with a hangover.

....Too much vodka.

As I head downstairs in a new building I just moved into in an area of Mexico City called Iztapalapa, I see the door to the apartment of the landlord wide open.

The landlord was likely already gone as I wake up late and he's at work.

But the mother is always home.

She's here 24/7 as some stay at home mom.

As I walk closer to go downstairs, I see the mom sitting on some couch with their very young daughter.

Though I have no idea what the exact age is, the daughter is probably like 6 or 7.

And the daughter -- though I have no idea what her offense was -- did something I guess to piss the mom off.

Because immediately I see the mom begin hitting her daughter in the face.

Some very loud smacks.

And the daughter begins crying.

The mom looks up at me as I approach with some weird stare.

I awkwardly give a "buenas tardes" (yes, I wake up late) as I pass the door and go downstairs.

Then that was that.

Since I began living here over a few weeks now, I have seen the mom on a few other occasions be a bit liberal in how she gives out "corporal punishment."

No spanks on the butt.

No using the belt like my parents did like once or twice when I was a very young kid.

No using the soap to "wash out" bad words from my mouth.

Straight up hitting the kid in the face though was what this Mexican mom was doing.

So, to be fair, I'm not foreign to "corporal" punishment.

I've seen some of it growing up.

But her hitting or smacking the kid in the face did seem a bit rough to me.

Like she's only 6 or 7 or whatever.

But, in my time living in Latin America, it's not unusual.

When I lived in an area called Pedregal de Santo Domingo in Mexico City, I had a neighbor in the house next door that I would hear make lots of noise.

Lots of fighting between mom and dad.

Screaming actually.

Kids getting "corporal punishment."

And so on and so on.

Among Latinos anyway, there's a certain type of "corporal punishment" you hear them discuss.

The Chancla.

Where the mom uses a flip flop to punish her kids.

I've never seen that personally in real life as far as I can remember and the only Latinos I know personally who mention it are US Latinos.

Not saying it doesn't happen to Latin Americans but I've only seen US Latinos bring it up.

Anyway, it's a topic above all, isn't it?

Do Latin American parents punish the kids more with corporal punishment than kids back home?

Well, I can't say for sure.

But I'd maybe give a strong disagree?

It's a statement I've heard some gringos say about life down here.

That the parents are more old school.

Back when I was a kid (only 20 years ago), I remember corporal punishment pretty well being common.

Among some friends I had, I remember my best friend many years ago named Paul who eventually moved away but, in hindsight, I feel probably saw some shit. I have no idea but the dude would cry his eyes out for no reason and there was something off about his home in hindsight.

Outside of that, I had an old friend named Jesse who, though I'm not 100% certain, feel like his dad probably used corporal punishment or was physically abusive perhaps. There were odd vibes I remember about his family in hindsight. 

In my own life, I already mentioned a few stories but there were others where my dad was a bit rough.

So it's not like corporal punishment from parents was uncommon back then.

When people say "Latin Americans use more corporal punishment than we gringos," I can't say that's true based on my experience.

I'm not saying I had it rough. I love my parents and they did many good things but corporal punishment wasn't a foreign concept to families back home in small town Iowa of the late 1990s to late 2000s. 

Though somethings back then might've been more tolerable than they are today.

And the personal experience of one person isn't the same of the other nor is it reflective of broader trends.

Broad Data on Corporal Punishment in Latin America

In terms of broader data, let's look into it.

According to this source here, we have these statistics: 

"A pesar de los riesgos asociados al castigo físico, esta sigue siendo una práctica muy común en América Latina y el Caribe. Recientemente encontramos que 16.8 millones de niños entre los 2 y 4 años en la región (55.2% de todos los niños en ese rango de edad) reciben nalgadas y otros castigos físicos."

Then we have this study here for Mexico: 

"Resultados. Se observó que 54% de los padres del grupo clínico y 17% del grupo control pensaban que "cuanto más estrictos son los padres, mejores serán los niños también". Tres de los tipos de castigo, ejemplos claros de maltrato, también fueron significativamente más frecuentes en el grupo clínico."

Then we have this source for Peru here:

"El colectivo de organizaciones que impulsa la campaña “Atrévete a Criar con Amor”, realizó una encuesta entre niñas, niños y adolescentes para escuchar sus opiniones en relación al castigo físico y humillante. El documento, que se enmarca dentro de las acciones por el 30 Aniversario de la Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño, revela que el 80% de niñas, niños y adolescentes han sido testigos de casos de castigos físicos y humillantes."

"Esta dramática realidad, se demuestra también en el Estudio Multinacional sobre los Determinantes de la Violencia del MIMP, que señala que más del 70% de la niñez y adolescencia peruana ha sufrido alguna vez violencia física o psicológica por parte de las personas con las que vive."

"La encuesta se aplicó por Internet a 709 niñas, niños y adolescentes entre los 10 y 17 años. El 80% de los encuestados vive en la ciudad de Lima, y el resto en otras regiones. La mayor concentración de edades está entre los 10 y 15 años."

Then we have this source here for Colombia:

"Cuatro de cada cinco niños entre dos y 14 años son violentados físicamente en sus hogares"

For Argentina, we have this bit here

"En Argentina, más del 95% de adultos cree que los chicos y chicas no deben ser castigados físicamente. Pero en el 70% de los hogares se utilizan métodos de disciplina que incluyen violencia física o verbal, como el zamarreo, chirlos, cachetadas, golpes y gritos."

Anyway, I only tried doing a quick Google search for the biggest Spanish speaking countries of Latin America.

Couldn't find anything quick for Brazil given I don't speak Portuguese actually.

And some of the sources seemed to be legit research and others just news articles.

So take it as you want.

For the US, I found this bit here from Wikipedia:

"More than a third of parents in the US report using corporal punishment on children less than a year old, often with a slap on the hand. Researchers estimate that 85% of American youth have been physically punished by parents during childhood or adolescence."

In that case, I guess the US doesn't look THAT much better, does it?

Only if you believe "the researchers" and not the self-reported parents.

Final Thoughts

Aside from how common it is down here in Latin America versus back home, I will end this article on saying that I do believe that people down here are relatively "more old school" than folks back home but it highly depends on who we are talking about given we are discussing all of the Americas (minus Canada but who gives a fuck about them?).

Yes, people in Latin America -- if we were to generalize -- do tend to be more "old school" on many issues than those back home.

But I personally always find there to be a relationship between how developed something is financially and how "old school" it is.

On many issues outside of corporal punishment.

If I had to guess, parents of worse financial backgrounds do more corporal punishment than those who don't.

Countries that aren't as poor like Chile or Uruguay might have less of it or at least more parents who acknowledge it isn't too good to hit your kids (and perhaps less severe in their corporal punishment) then countries that are poorer like Guatemala.

And yes -- Latin America is broadly speaking "lesser developed" than the US so maybe it happens more here.

Though, as you can see in this article here I found on it in regards to its use in Peru, I guess not everyone in Latin America likes corporal punishment.

And, based on just my personal experiences from back home and living in a dozen and more houses across the region, the "corporal punishment" I see down here doesn't really make me think it's worthy of mentioning.

It doesn't feel like necessarily that the gringos are better than Latin Americans on this issue. I haven't seen anything too crazy in any building I've lived in and I've lived in more than a dozen. 

Maybe two dozen?

But that's all just a "shooting from the hip" opinion.

Just what sounds most likely to me.

Anyway, I got nothing else to add.

If you got anything, drop a comment below.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks for reading.

Best regards,


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