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Teens still being struck by parents.

Adolescents may be on the threshold of adulthood, but, for many teens, one holdover from their childhood remains. Murray Straus, professor of sociology, University of New Hampshire, points out that at least half still are hit by their parents.

Corporal punishment--using physical force with the intention of causing a child pain, not for injury, but for purposes of discipline--usually is thought of as a way to control youngsters. However, spanking, slapping, grabbing, or shoving a child roughly usually continue into the teen years.

Straus maintains that, while spanking and slapping may be legally and, in the public's eye, morally correct ways to discipline a child, such punishment can be done with such frequency that it generally would be considered abuse. "There is, however, no agreement on how much corporal punishment must occur before it is considered abuse." He contends that almost no one thinks of these assaults on kids as crimes, since the common law and state statutes across the nation have what can be called a "parental exemption" from being charged with assault for physically attacking a child.

"Such exemptions are not unusual. The legal system treats families differently in a number of ways." For example, until recently, most states also had a "marital exemption" for rape, meaning a husband who physically forced his wife to have sex could not be charged with rape. Although many states have eliminated the marital exemption for rape, none has eliminated the parental exemption for assault. As a result, "being hit by a parent remains a normal and taken-for-granted part of growing up for almost all American children."

Straus maintains that this acceptance is not evidence that the practice does no harm. His studies suggest that corporal punishment of adolescents is associated with an increased probability of violence and other crime, depression, alienation, as well as lower achievement. It also may interfere with the development of independence and humiliate, antagonize, and infantalize youngsters. Other findings include: * Having two parents is usually an advantage, but may mean double jeopardy, as it increases the probability of an adolescent being hit. * Boys tend to be struck more often than girls, and fathers tend to hit adolescent girls less than mothers do. * Almost half of the parents responding to the study were themselves struck by parents during their teen years.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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