Is Spanking Abuse? A Long-Standing Debate
According to a blog post found on preventchildabusenj.org, on January 26, 2011, the NJ Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a parent “slapping their child” did not constitute “child abuse”. The court’s ruling overturned an action by the NJ Division on Youth and Family Services (now DCCP) to remove a teenager from her father and stepmother’s home in 2008. The father admitted that his wife had slapped his daughter and took her earnings from a part-time job to pay a TV cable bill.
The issue was also the subject of “Disciplining One’s Kids: What’s ‘Reasonable’ Under the Law?” held at the ABA Midyear Meeting. According to an article written by Lorelei Laird found on abajournal.com, “the answer is complicated in the United States.”
“According to Howard Davidson, director of the ABA Center on Children and the Law, states have different approaches. By far the most common approach, used in 26 states, says parents may use reasonable force if it’s necessary to reasonably maintain discipline.”
The debate is long-standing and positions regarding corporal punishment vary widely. For example, a website titled kidjacked.com states, “there are times when a spanking is exactly what is called for. Too bad some parents spank first and ask questions later. Unfortunately, it is illegal to spank your child in some states. So, know the law in your state… or face the consequences.”
In a recent case against NFL player Adrian Peterson, Peterson stood accused of injuring his 4-year-old son in May after disciplining him with a tree branch or “switch.” Peterson said the injuries were unintentional and that he was imposing the same kind of discipline that had been imposed on him as a boy growing up in Texas.
The New Jersey statutes are clear. Spanking is not prohibited outright:
Cruelty to a child includes inflicting unnecessarily severe corporal punishment upon a child.
§ 9:6-1. [Civil Code] “Abuse” includes a parent, guardian, or other person with control or custody inflicting excessive corporal punishment (which must be excessive to the point that the child’s physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result).
§ 9:6-8.9. [Civil Code] Person with responsibility for care, supervision, discipline, or safety of another may use force against them if for the purpose of and to the extent necessary to further the responsibility.
What are your thoughts? Does spanking harm a child and lead to aggressive behavior? Or, is spanking an appropriate deterrent that can play an important role in raising a child?
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