Peterson Suspension Highlights Corporal Punishment Divide; It’s Often Legal


The Adrian Peterson case dramatically illustrates why the line between corporal punishment and child abuse is so hard to draw in society and law, the Christian Science Monitor reports. After days of indecision, the Minnesota Vikings banned their star running back from team activities until legal proceedings are resolved. He was arrested on charges of child abuse for allegedly hitting his 4-year-old son with a wooden “switch.” The mounting public outcry caused Nike to suspend its endorsement contract with Peterson. Peterson’s defense struck a deep cultural chord. He said he had been disciplined the same way as a child, and that “the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.”

Research consistently shows that corporal punishment, such as repeated spanking, has long-lasting negative consequences, ranging from increased likelihood for psychiatric disorders to poor academic performance. Peterson’s statement resonates with many Americans and highlights why states have found it hard to pass laws against corporal punishment. Negative effects of corporal punishment “in medium to heavy doses, have been so well studied,” says Alan Kazdin, a Yale professor of child psychiatry. “But what is there to do? What is there to say? It's embedded in our culture.” Corporal punishment is legal in the U.S., and laws vary. Nineteen states allow corporal punishment in public and private schools. In the domestic setting, the practice is legal in all 50 states.

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