Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Physical punishment and child outcomes in the UK – a mixed methods study

Nuffield Foundation funded project providing new and timely evidence on the physical punishment of children for policymakers and practitioners. In partnership with the NSPCC.

Young girl sat

30 January 2023


Physical punishment is the most common form of violence against children. Despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child stating that protection from physical punishment is a right of every child, it is still legal in most countries. Scotland and Wales have recently enacted legislation prohibiting physical punishment in all settings. However, physical punishment in the home remains legal in England and Northern Ireland. At the same time, research has shown that physical punishment is detrimental to healthy development.

Project aims

Partnering with the NSPCC and with support from Future Views Today, this project will produce important, timely insights on physical punishment in the UK. Findings will inform the ongoing debate around law reform in England and Northern Ireland, and contribute to the Nuffield Foundation's mission to advance the welfare of children and families, as well as legal justice. It will produce UK-relevant causal evidence on the impact of physical punishment on children's development and well-being through quantitative methods, complemented by qualitative research exploring issues around law reform.

Research to date

Research has shown that physical punishment is detrimental to healthy development. However, the evidence for its negative impact rests largely on studies from the USA. Research using UK data is very limited, which may be one reason why there are, as yet, no plans for law reform in England and Northern Ireland. We seek to address this gap.


The project takes a mixed methods approach. Quantitative data from the Milllennium Cohort Study which has tracked the lives of more than 20,000 children born at the start of the 2000s will be analysed. Qualitative interviews with policymakers, charities, practitioners and parent representatives will also be carried out. We will work with an advisory group of children and young people to ensure their views are taken into account at all stages of the research. 

The team


The project will produce a range of academic and non-technical outputs including academic papers, policy briefings, presentations and a report, which will be made available here.

Grant value