Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in a child injury case last week after reportedly using a small tree branch to hit his 4-year-old son in May 2014. Peterson has also been accused of abusing his other young son, though his lawyer maintained the accusations are untrue.
Peterson was charged under a Texas statute that criminalizes “bodily injury” to a child “recklessly, or with criminal negligence.” Like every other state in the U.S., Texas has no law explicitly making corporal punishment at home illegal. Many state statutes on child abuse are broad enough to allow a range of behaviors, like hitting and spanking. Children are still protected by child abuse laws that criminalize serious bodily injury.
Multiple studies have shown that physical punishment does more harm than good. It can make children more aggressive later in life, and may contribute to mental disorders. The American Academy of Pediatrics "strongly opposes striking a child for any reason."
Thirty-five countries have outlawed corporal punishment, according to The Center for Effective Discipline, an organization that provides educational information on corporal punishment and alternatives, and more than 100 countries have banned corporal punishment in schools. The U.S. is not included in either group.
In 19 states, it's also still legal for schools to use corporal punishment, according to CED.
In contrast, 113 countries outlaw hitting children in school, according the CED.