Childhood and the emotion of corporal punishment in Britain: 1938-1986

Emmerson, Owen George (2020) Childhood and the emotion of corporal punishment in Britain: 1938-1986. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This research explores attitudes towards, and experiences of, corporal punishment in public and private spheres in Great Britain 1938-1986. It explores the 165 responses to a collaborative directive for this research with the social research organisation Mass Observation Project on corporal punishment in 2014, which included questions asked of the original Mass-Observation panel in 1942, the responses to which are also analysed. It examines the relationship between local sites of resistance, documented in the Mass Observation surveys, to broader movements that sought to banish corporal punishment across the century, some of which were formed by children. It asks how and why the public practices of corporal punishment fell across twentieth-century Britain, and it examines why children were significantly disadvantaged in the hierarchy of attaining rights which sought to protect from bodily harm. It asks why parents’, and not children’s rights were privileged in the foundation of laws which prohibited the public use of corporal punishment, and why the private use of corporal punishment escaped relatively untouched by legislation.

It argues that the cultures of public corporal punishment began to shift long before the ‘permissive’ moment of the 1960s when the child-centred approaches of the 1930s emphasised the need to recognise the emotional landscape of childhood and the relationship between the physical and the emotional. It recognises that children across the twentieth century opposed corporal punishment in many ways and this thesis explores the role that children themselves played in liberating themselves from corporal punishment in British schools. Children’s feelings, for a time, were at the centre of the corporal punishment debate, but their voices were not amplified on the subject for long. As Thatcher challenged the post-war consensus by which childhood provision had been expanded, the shift from child-centred approaches to a state of increased parental responsibility meant that it took an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights in 1982 to end corporal punishment in the public sphere in 1986, and it did not fall willingly. Legislation by governments across the twentieth century, which gradually eroded the centuries-old practice of public corporal punishment, came as a result of a cooperative effort between grass-roots activism and more traditional routes of political change, and that change often jarred with public opinion. Corporal punishment fell messily from public use, and any shifts in public opinion towards its use were as likely to be related to individual experience as they were to contemporary prescriptive approaches to parenting. Resistance to corporal punishment grew from experience, and change came through reciprocal efforts made on the streets, in institutions, and in Parliament.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0503 The Family. Marriage. Home > HQ0793 Youth. Adolescents. Teenagers
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV6001 Criminology > HV6035 Criminal anthropology Including criminal types, criminal psychology, prison psychology, causes of crime
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV7231 Criminal justice administration > HV7431 Prevention of crime, methods, etc.
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2020 16:02
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2022 08:14
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/92529

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