IMPORTANT:This page has used Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia in either a refactored, modified, abridged, expanded, built on or 'straight from' text content! (view authors)

Chastisement is the infliction of corporal punishment.


English common law allowed parents and others who have “lawful control or charge” of a child to use “moderate and reasonable” chastisement or correction. A ruling in 1860 by Chief Justice Cockburn stated: “By the law of England, a parent ... may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, always, however, with this condition, that it is moderate and reasonable.” It was left to the courts to decide what is meant by “moderate and reasonable” in any particular case.[1]

The rights of parents, guardians and teachers, in regard to the chastisement of children, were expressly recognized in English law by the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act 1904 (§ 28). A master had a right to inflict moderate chastisement upon his apprentice for neglect or other misbehaviour, provided that he did so himself, and that the apprentice was under age (Archbold, Cr. Pl., 23rd ed., 795).[2]

Currenltly in England and Wales, section 58 of the Children Act 2004 enables parents to justify common assault of their children as “reasonable punishment”, but prevents the defence being used in relation to more serious assault charges.[3]


William Blackstone wrote in the 18th century: "The husband also (by the old law) might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehaviour, the law thought it reasonable to intrust him with the power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement.... But, with us, in the politer reign of Charles the second, this power of correction began to be doubted: and a wife may now have security of the peace against her husband; or, in return, a husband against his wife...." [4]

In the 1870s, courts in the United States overruled the common-law principle that a husband had the right to "physically chastise an errant wife".[5] In the UK the traditional right of a husband to inflict moderate corporal punishment on his wife in order to keep her "within the bounds of duty" was similarly removed in 1891.[6][7] See Domestic violence for more information.


  1. Lawfulness of corporal punishment
  2. "Corporal punishment", Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1911]
  3. Lawfulness of corporal punishment
  4. William Blackstone. Commentaries on the Laws of England
  5. Calvert, R. "Criminal and civil liability in husband-wife assaults", in Violence in the family (Suzanne K. Steinmetz and Murray A. Straus, eds.), Harper & Row, New York, 1974. ISBN 0396068642
  6. R. v Jackson, [1891] 1 QB 671, abstracted at
  7. "Corporal punishment", Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, 1911.

See also

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.