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Discipline, Assault, and Justice: Violent Parents and the Law

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This article calls attention to an unacceptable double standard in American law: the lenient treatment of parental violence against children when compared to other forms of physical assault. Parts II and III critique the generous privilege of physical discipline extended to parents and the differential state response to violence when the victim is a child in the assailant's family. Appeals to family privacy and parental autonomy to justify the current double standard are examined and found wanting. Clearer and much stricter limits on corporal punishment are recommended and defended as constitutional. We further recommend that parental violence which falls outside these limits should be treated no differently than other misdemeanor and felony assaults. These two proposals give children the protection against domestic violence to which they are entitled as a matter of right and prudence.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Houston, Texas 2: Yale University

Publication date: July 1, 1997


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