Smacking children makes behaviour worse

teddy bear, couch

Smacking children as a method of discipline can actually make behavioural problems worse, new research suggests.

An academic review of 74 studies from around the world over the last decade found “strong and consistent evidence” that corporal punishment is linked with “increased childhood aggression and antisocial behaviour”.

One of the studies examined in the report found that while more than half of Scottish mothers – 58 per cent – admitted they smacked their five year-old children, between 80 and 90 per cent of parents concede that such punishments are not helpful.

Another study suggested that children who had been smacked before they were two years-old were more likely to misbehave and develop emotional problems than children who had not.

Not only that, the review also found that corporal punishment often comes with “a worrying and serious risk of escalation”, as parents who smack their children are more likely to go on to abuse them.

Dr Anja Heilmann, one of the review’s authors, said that their research “dispels the myth that physical punishment is a necessary disciplinary tool”.

The report was carried out on behalf of children’s charities the NSPCC, Barnardo’s Scotland and Children 1st along with the Children’s Commissioner for Scotland. The authors called for a change in Scottish law to ban smacking altogether.

Meanwhile, Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, made a similar demand. She said that Wales should “become the first nation in the UK to remove the legal defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ against children”. She added that there are no legal defences against hitting an adult, so the same should be true of children.

The Commissioner said:

“Countries quite similar to ours, like New Zealand, have done it successfully. Ireland banned smacking last month with little fuss and wide consensus.”

Photo by Lucas Stanley via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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