Three out of four parents physically discipline their children

The Press 14 December 2007
Three out of four young parents physically discipline their children — and one in eight have seriously assaulted them — a Christchurch study reveals. The study, completed before smacking was outlawed, asked 155 parents under 25 how they acted towards their children in the previous 12 months, taking into account punishments such as smacking and assaults such as burning and choking. Researchers concluded the use of child physical punishment was likely to be common among young parents and up to 12 per cent engaged in “harsh or abusive treatment”. Lead researcher Canterbury University Associate Professor Lianne Woodward said social and family background had a big influence on the parents’ use of physical punishment. “We found that young parents are less likely to smack or use more severe physical punishment methods if they are caring for fewer children, have low levels of financial and relationship stress, and have had positive parenting role models on which to base their own,” she said. Family First’s national director Bob McCoskrie said the study was consistent with earlier findings. “This study doesn’t establish that smacking should be banned. It simply shows there are at-risk groups — already identified by Unicef and CYF reporters — that need resourcing, support and training. “The fact that there’s 12% admitting they’ve physically assaulted a child shows we need to do more proactive work. It’s not the smacking, it’s the way some parents smack. This study highlights that exact point.”