Should It Be Illegal for Parents to Spank Their Children?

Massachusetts could become the first state to criminalize corporal punishment.

ByABC News
November 27, 2007, 5:19 PM

Nov. 28, 2007 — -- Spanking, as a means of correcting your child, may seem a bit old-fashioned. But should corporal punishment be illegal?

Massachusetts could become the first state to make it illegal for parents to spank their children. Today, at the Massachusetts State House, the hearing for a bill to ban the practice was standing room only.

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State Rep. Jay Kaufman, who sponsored the bill, said, "If today's hearing, and the attention this bill has gotten, can prevent one injury to a child, this attention will have been well placed."

A nurse named Kathleen Wolf actually wrote the bill.

"I can remember being 10 years old and thinking, 'what is going on here? What are these people doing?'" Wolf said. "How can this be allowed to happen?"

She and others see corporal punishment as child abuse.

Child psychologist Theresa Whitehurst said, "When a husband does it to a wife, the very same act is considered domestic violence. And when you hit a child, what's the difference?"

Today, Boston talk radio took the idea to the woodshed.

"The listeners are pretty much appalled," WRKO Radio host Howie Carr said. "Once again, Massachusetts cements its reputation as the craziest state in the union! What are you going to do? Are you going to have cameras in houses? Are you going to have 5-year-old kids testifying against their parents? It's absurd."

It's one thing for a parent to decide not to spank their children. Plenty of parents have. But it may be quite another for the government to outright ban the practice. Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to do it. But it wouldn't be the first place in the world.

Nineteen countries including Sweden, Britain and Israel have outlawed spanking.

But in this country, 21 states still allow teachers to spank kids in schools.

Many parents struggle with the idea, and state law already bans physical abuse of children. But just what constitutes abuse may be in the eye of the beholder.