16 Child L. Prac. 1 (1997-1998)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt16 and id is 1 raw text is: ChidLaw

Vol. 16 No. 1

March 1997

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Corporal Punishment: What Lawyers Need to Know
by Janet Chiancone

For years, child development pro-
fessionals, health care experts and
others have debated the pros and
cons of using physical punishment
on children. Key to the debate is
whether spanking or slapping
harms a child.'
Advocates for ending corporal
punishment contend it leads to
other forms of violence, including
child abuse and crime, and teaches
children to resolve conflicts with
force. Those who support corporal
punishment counter that, when part
of an otherwise supportive and lov-
ing relationship, spanking will hot
harm the child.
Balancing a parent's right to
punish a child with the state's obli-
gation to protect the child from
abuse leads to inconsistencies in
how courts handle these cases.
While several states have laws that
affirm a parent's right to use cor-
poral punishment, interpreting
when this punishment is

reasonable and appropriate' is
up to the individual judge.
Contributing to the confusion
surrounding this issue are differ-
ences in ways people from differ-
ent cultural groups use and define
corporal punishment. For example,
terms such as whipping or
beating are common terms used
in some cultural groups to describe
what is more generally known as
swatted or spanked. These
words may have a very different
impact on the listener, and affect
his or her interpretation when de-
ciding if abuse occurred.'
What distinguishes corporal
punishment from child abuse?
How are the two connected? And
what impact can physically punish-
ing a child (e.g., spanking, slap-
ping) have on his or her short and
long-term development? Can an
otherwise supportive, loving parent
use spanking as an effective
method to correct a child's misbe-
havior? As a lawyer representing a

This article is one of a series that discusses social science research and how
lawyers can use it and apply it to practice. The articles are beingfinded
through the National Resource Center on Legal and Court Issues, a project of
the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for
Children and Families.

child who has been abused, what
do you need to know about the ef-
fects of corporal punishment on
children? What kinds of services
should you seek for parents who
misuse physical punishment?
Corporal or physical punishment is
the use of physical force with the
intention of causing a child pain,
but not injury, for purposes of cor-
rection or control of the child's be-
havior.' Many people believe dis-
cipline and punishment are inter-
What's Inside:
Helping You Handle Ethical
Ten Things Guaranteed to
Make a Judge Love to See
You in His or Her Courtoom
New Books on Children's


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