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Is Spanking Considered Child Abuse?


Examples of Child Abuse

You may have been spanked as a child, but can you spank your own child these days?

Over the years, spanking has become a less common form of discipline among US parents. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, as countless parents still use physical discipline to put their children in place. Although parents tend to use non-physical forms of discipline with their kids, that doesn’t mean they’re prohibited from using physical discipline altogether.

In New Jersey, corporal punishment (any punishment inflicted on the body) is legal under certain circumstances. Parents are allowed to inflict corporal punishments, such as spanking, on their children, but certain caregivers such as foster parents and caregivers in institutional settings cannot. With this in mind, it is important to ensure you don’t cross the line because you may get accused of child abuse if you take your disciplinary actions too far.

Excessive corporal punishment is a type of child abuse in New Jersey. This means that parents nor caregivers can inflict excessive corporal punishment on a child. Not to mention, any form of corporal punishment that causes actual or risks of physical or emotional injuries is prohibited in the state. Although New Jersey statutes assert that excessive corporal punishment occurs when a caregiver uses an inappropriate method of punishment, parents are held to the same standards.

As such, parents often wonder what could happen if they hit their child and leave a bruise, for instance, such as by spanking their child on the bottom. Ultimately, parents contemplate what is acceptable corporal punishment altogether. To answer this question, our lawyers explain what is considered excessive corporal punishment in New Jersey below:

Physical Isolation

  • Willfully excluding the child from ordinary social contact under circumstances that indicate social or emotional deprivation (i.e., prohibiting them from eating, using the bathroom, or contacting others for an excessive amount of time)
  • Locking a child away without adult supervision in a place they cannot leave from
  • Refusing to let a child into their own home even though they are not a danger to themselves or others

Sexual Abuse

  • Contacts or interactions between a child and their parent/caregiver that are intended for sexual stimulation are considered sexual abuse
  • Sexual exploitation is sexual abuse and can occur when children are utilized for sexual activities to gain a profit, favor, or power, for example
  • Sexual abuse includes rape, engaging in sexual activities with a minor, injuring the intimate parts of a minor, and forcing a minor to engage in sexual activities with adults, animals, or other children


  • A child is considered neglected when their parent or caregiver denies them basic necessities or the means to access such necessities
  • Neglect may result in physical injuries and/or symptoms such as dehydration, malnutrition, infected skin lesions, chronic medical problems, irregular school attendance, and developmental delays
  • A child may be medically neglected when their parent or caregiver doesn’t provide for the child’s basic medical needs
  • Lack of adequate supervisions may be considered neglect if, for example:
    • A child is left without adult supervision when they are unable to provide themselves food, good judgment, protection in crises, or self-control
    • A child does have adult supervision but the adult is not available or unresponsive to the child’s need for food, protection from crises, or discipline

Emotional Abuse/Neglect

  • Conduct by a child’s parent or caregiver that contributes to, causes, allows, or permits the following is considered emotional abuse/neglect:
    • Significant and/or persistent emotional pain, harm, and/or impairment
    • significant vulnerability to or risk of such pain, harm, and/or impairment
    • Significant exacerbation of a child’s existing emotional pain or impairment


  • Any conduct that proves a parent has forsaken their parental responsibilities and rights

Charged for Child Abuse? Know Your Rights.

Any act or failure to act resulting in injuries to a child could be charged as child abuse, which is why parents and caregivers must be cautious about how they discipline children. As a reminder, certain caregivers are legally prohibited from administering corporal punishments altogether, while parents are legally prohibited from administering excessive corporal punishments.

Knowing this, you could be wrongfully accused of child abuse. This is why you need to get expert criminal defense from our firm by contacting (201) 574-7919! We look forward to hearing from you.

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