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Talking Through The Issue Of Corporal Punishment For Kids

On Point dove into the debate over corporal punishment on Wednesday — as Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson faces charges in Texas after he allegedly hit his four-year-old son with a switch.

The hour focused on the presence of corporal punishment in American homes – hitting, slapping, spanking, or using a switch to physically discipline a child – and its consequences.

75 percent of American families say they have used corporal punishment at least once in the past year.

Elizabeth Gershoff, professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, said, “most of us who were spanked, and most adults these days were spanked, including myself, we turned out okay in spite of spanking, not because of it.”

Gershoff said that corporal punishment can lead to negative consequences for children like aggression, behavioral problems — such as lying and stealing — and mental health problems — such as depression and anxiety. Gershoff also said that some early studies show physical changes to the brain of a child who has been disciplined through hitting.

Research shows that corporal punishment is commonly used in the American South, and is more deeply-embedded in African-American family culture. Opinion writer and MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor, herself African-American, said that culture plays a huge role in family discipline practices, especially among African-Americans.

“By rejecting spanking and corporal punishment, you are asking them to reject their heritage, their ancestors, their parents, the people they have come to know love them,” Taylor said. “You are asking them to reject their love by saying that their form of discipline was wrong.”

But Taylor stressed that this is not an excuse for hitting a child, it only makes it more difficult to break the cycle.

The full conversation also included George Holden of Southern Methodist University. You can listen here.

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