Smacking rate way down on decades past

NZ Herald Jul 25, 2009

New Zealand parents have turned away from smacking their children frequently as the country prepares to vote on whether the practice should stay a criminal offence. Four surveys of parents of 4-year-old children by Waikato University psychologists Jane and James Ritchie, from 1963 to 1997, found that about half of all parents throughout those four decades smacked their children at least once a week. But a Weekend Herald-DigiPoll survey, which put the same questions this month to 200 parents of 4-year-olds, has found that just 9 per cent of mothers and 8 per cent of fathers now smack their children that often.

About two-thirds of both mothers and fathers still smack at least occasionally, despite the 2007 law promoted by Green MP Sue Bradford that banned using force against children for the purpose of “correction”. But the number who never smack, which stayed below 10 per cent for four decades, has leaped to 39 per cent of mothers and 33 per cent of fathers. Despite this, in line with other recent polls, a massive 85.4 per cent still plan to vote “No” on the referendum question, “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Only 10.8 per cent plan to vote “Yes”, with 3.8 per cent undecided.