Corporal Punishment: Harmful for Black Children

By Elfman, Lois | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, April 20, 2017 | Go to article overview

Corporal Punishment: Harmful for Black Children


Elfman, Lois, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


In her second book, Dr. Stacey Patton takes on the issue of corporal punishment and how it harms the futures of African-American children.

Patton, an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University, writes about the detriments of spanking and other physical punishment in disciplining children. The title, Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won't Save Black America, takes on the idea that physical punishment can severely impede a child's learning.

The book launch party was held recently in a decidedly child-friendly environment, Harlem Children's Zone, where kids played and at times loudly enjoyed themselves as Patton read from the book and answered questions. The event was live-streamed on Facebook.

"[Harlem Children's Zone] educates parents about the basic science behind child development and brain development; particularly how corporal punishment can stymie a child's healthy brain development in terms of cognition, executive functioning, emotional regulation and also harms emotional bonds between parents and children," says Patton. "They see the link between early child development and outcomes later on in life.

"I've never been to a book launch party where children were central, so I purposely invited children to attend," she adds. "It was pitch perfect because when we have conversations about corporal punishment in this country, it's usually adults talking."

During the Q&A portion, a 4-year-old stepped up to the microphone to ask the first question.

Patton's first book, That Mean Old Yesterday, was a memoir about her experiences as an adoptee, child abuse survivor and former foster youth. In her work as an award-winning author, journalist and child advocate, she has focused on the detriments of spanking, particularly when it comes to African-American children. She has tried to build a movement to change the culture of Black family violence, often facing backlash from both Black and White people.

The book utilizes an interdisciplinary approach, uncovering the historical roots of the issue and looking at the cultural underpinning as well as how and why it is reinforced. For the past 10 years, Patton has traveled around the country leading workshops with child welfare professionals, juvenile justice professionals, clergy, doctors, and community groups.

In addition to interviews for the book, Patton gathered information from people who've accessed her website SparetheKids. com, an online anti-spanking portal. The website features videos from families who've taken the pledge to stop using hitting as punishment. "I will no longer hit you in fear or frustration because I know this can harm your physical, intellectual and psychological wellbeing, and damage our relationship," it read in part. …

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