Law catching up on punishment vs. child abuse
By Frank P. Cervone
October 15, 2014
At our Labor Day pool party this year, a 3-year-old boy grabbed a little girl by the arm when she sat in the plastic race car that the boy had been enjoying earlier. He got a scolding that focused on sharing and the she-had-it-first rule of kids’ justice. Off the boy went, frowning miserably for about 10 seconds, before finding some other great toy to fill his limitless desire to play. It seemed that a lesson was delivered, sufficient for the moment, the penalty fitting the crime.
A week later, I read that NFL star Adrian Peterson beat his 4-year-old son to bleeding and bruises with a tree branch, reportedly for pushing a cousin off a motorbike video game. Peterson was charged criminally with child abuse in Texas, where the incident occurred.
From the enactment of the first child protection laws in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, lawmakers have carved out a corporal-punishment exception for parental supervision, control, and discipline of children. But where is the line between corporal punishment and child abuse? And which of these are crimes? I don’t think the line is so hard to find.