Psychological punishment

Cutting off Supplies by Thomas Webster (c. 1850). Psychological punishment: a boy made to sit on a punishment stool wearing a dunce cap for humiliation.

Psychological punishment is punishment that relies on psychological effects, mainly emotions, such as fear, humiliation, embarrassment, shame and guilt.

It is directed at the delinquent's mind (psyche), rather than his/her body, as in corporal punishment. Instead of feeling physical pain, the person feels emotional pain. But it should be noted as with physical punishments taking to the same extremes this is just as abusive, though harder to heal.

Examples in parentingEdit

A common type of psychological punishment of children is to withhold love, or to withdraw attention, for a period of time. Another is to lock a child up in a dark place (e.g. a cellar or a wardrobe) to install the feeling of helplessness and fear. Another example are diaper discipline and petticoat punishment, which are mainly based on humiliation.

Forms of psychological punishment at school that were common in the 19th and early 20th century include corner time, locking a child up, and humiliating the child with a dunce cap, donkey cap, or by donkey riding.

Psychological punishment is often said to be more cruel and harmful than corporal punishment, which is merely physical in nature and quickly over, followed by reconciliation. Nevertheless, psychological punishment has never been as much in the focus of child abuse activists as corporal punishment. This might not because they don't rate it harmful but because it's harder to spot.

Combination of psychological and corporal punishmentEdit

Often, the two types of punishment - psychological and corporal - are combined. For example, an unruly child is first scolded and put in corner time to wait for their spanking, (psychological), then spanked (corporal), and finally made to formally apologize (psychological again). Or a humiliating pose of shame is combined with pain, as in log kneeling.

See alsoEdit


  • Cartoon "I may not be able to smack you, but it won't stop the 'Bogie Man' coming to get you when you are naughty!"