I first read an earlier edition of this book back in 1997 while doing a literature review for my Master's Thesis on attitudes about the use of corporal punishment in schools. I had already read stacks of research-based articles on issues related to corporal punishment and considered myself fairly familiar with the subject. Still, I was shocked when I read through what this book has to say about the effects of corporal punishment on children.
The following are just some of the psychological and social problems this book shows are associated with exposure to corporal punishment: depression, suicidal thoughts, child abuse, spousal abuse, violence in schools, masochism, violent crime, and theft. Author Murray Straus even shows the ways in which research indicates that corporal punishment leads to more misbehavior, not less! Take a look at the states where corporal punishment is used on schoolchildren, and you'll see that there are all kinds of social problems that don't exist in states where alternatives are used on students instead.
Some smart aleck is sure to respond to this review with a comment that argues that it's possible to make research say whatever you want it to say. That sounds like an intelligently skeptical thing to say, but the fact is that it's not true. The fact is that it's possible for an unscrupulous researcher to mislead readers who are uneducated in the rigorous standards of research methods. Luckily all the research that's referred to in Beating The Devil Out of Them has been thoroughly reviewed by professionals who are familiar with research methods and the subject area.
The beauty of this book is that it discusses the research behind these correlations without getting lost in the tedium of the academic writing style. None of the many journal articles I've read had the smooth, direct manner of Straus's writing. I recommend it to all teachers and parents, as well as anyone who cares about the way that we're raising the next generation.