When it comes to the law on smacking children, Australia is becoming an odd one out.
There are 45 countries which have made it illegal to use physical punishment as discipline including New Zealand, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain, but it’s still legal to smack children in Australia.
Paediatricians are now stepping in, saying it’s time for the profession as a group to advocate for a ban on smacking.
Kim Oates, Professor of Paediatrics at Sydney University has told ABC Radio National, paediatricians and other health professionals should lead the charge against smacking.
“All children need discipline, we’re absolutely clear about that, but physical punishment is just one form of discipline,’” she told Life Matters. “It’s not particularly effective in the long-term, a lot of research has shown that”.
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“It does have a temporary effect. All parents who’ve smacked their children know it works in the short-term, but long-term it’s not an effective measure”.
According to Professor Oates, physical punishment teaches children that violence is an effective means of imposing their will on others.
“In an individual child it may not cause harm. Most of us were smacked as children and we think we’ve turned out OK. But there’s accumulating research evidence — a big study from Canada showed that half the cases of physical abuse of children started as mild smacking and the parent gets out of control … there’s certainly evidence that it makes children who are smacked regularly more aggressive than other people”.
Were you smacked as a child and did you, in turn, smack your own children? Does smacking cause more harm than good, as this new evidence suggests? Is it time for Australia to fall in line with 45 other countries who have made it illegal to smack children?