“A smack applied with love can be a valuable form of discipline,” FamilyVoice Research Officer Ros Phillips said today. “The Royal Australasian College of Physicians’s call to make smacking a criminal offence goes overboard and ignores evidence that smacking can be beneficial.”
In 2010, a study of 2600 adults by psychology professor Marjorie Gunnoe of Michigan revealed that those who had been physically disciplined during their early years tended to be slightly happier and more successful later in life (Daily Mail, 4/1/10).
“Those who were smacked as children were more likely as teens to perform better at school, carry out volunteer work and go to university than their unsmacked peers. Despite Dr Gunnoe’s belief that smacking is a ‘dangerous’ tool, she found no evidence to justify laws banning this form of discipline,” Ros Phillips said.
“Dr Gunnoe’s study backs up the findings of two earlier gold standard longitudinal studies in New Zealand by Dr Fergusson and Dr Millichamp – that there is no evidence that children who are given occasional physical punishment are at greater risk of problems. They may even have fewer problems.”
Ros Phillips also pointed out that making smacking a criminal offence will not curb the behaviour of abusive parents. New Zealand’s law banning smacking, passed in 2007, has seen confirmed cases of child abuse soar by one third in the past five years.
Bob McCoskrie of advocacy group Family First New Zealand has pointed out that a recent survey found that almost a third of parents of younger children say that their children have threatened to report them if they were smacked. Almost one in four of parents of younger children say that they have less confidence when dealing with unacceptable behavior from their children since the anti-smacking law was passed.
“The latest review of police activity related to the anti-smacking law continues to show disturbing trends,” Bob McCoskrie said. “Almost 600 Kiwi families have had a police investigation for allegations of smacking or minor acts of physical discipline since the anti-smacking law was passed yet only 9% of them have been serious enough to warrant charges being laid. In the meantime, cases of actual child abuse have increased by a third in the past five years.”
Ros Phillips said that verbal abuse can result in long-lasting negative consequences including depression and anxiety. “The proposed law would not prevent this harmful form of discipline,” she said.
“A light smack on the arms, legs or bottom sends an effective message to a young child who is about to touch a hot stove. It’s one of several disciplinary methods parents should be free to use, in love.”
- Family and parenthood