Spanking as Child Abuse? Check Out Motherlode

21 10 2008

October 21, 2008
When Is Spanking Child Abuse?
by Lisa Belkin

travelIllustration by Barry Falls

A hearing is underway in a Wisconsin courtroom, for Barry Barnett, a 43-year-old pastor. He and the state department of social services both agree that the father of nine and minister at the Lighthouse Family Ministries in Poynette, Wisc., used a wooden paddle to punish his 12-year-old son for lying last spring. But they differ on whether that paddling, which left bruises on the boy, was child abuse.

. . .Spanking, which has never really gone away in many parts, is back in the news. Sometimes it is still the schools doing the hitting. This summer, the Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union issued a joint report, estimating that more than 200,000 children were spanked at American schools during the previous school year. (Corporal punishment in school is still legal in 21 states.)

Sometimes it is the parents. Alan E, Kazdin, director the Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic at Yale, where he is a professor of child psychology, wrote in Slate late last month, that “Despite the rise of the timeout and other nonphysical forms of punishment, most American parents hit, pinch, shake, or otherwise lay violent hands on their youngsters: 63 percent of parents physically discipline their 1-to 2-year-olds, and 85 percent of adolescents have been physically punished by their parents.”

Is it legal? Read the rest of this entry »