Doctors call for national ban on smacking children
AUSTRALIA'S doctors have called for a ban on smacking children, saying there was increasing evidence physical punishment led to depression, anxiety and aggressive behaviour.
Child health experts from The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), have urged Australian parents and caregivers to consider alternatives to physical punishment.
Associate Professor Susan Moloney, president of the RACP's Paediatrics & Child Health Division also called for better support for parents and caregivers to educate them about the potential harmful effects of violence on children.
"Research is increasingly showing that physical punishment may be harmful and children who receive physical punishment are at increased risk for a range of adverse outcomes both in childhood and as adults," she said.
"These include mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, aggressive or antisocial behaviour, substance use problems and abuse of their own children or spouse.
"While many children will not experience negative outcomes as a result of moderate or reasonable physical punishment, why put your child's future health and emotional wellbeing at risk?"
Do you support a ban on smacking children?
This poll ended on 31 July 2013.
Yes. No physical punishment is acceptable.
No. Smacking still has its place
No. Governments should not tell parents what to do
Yes. The rights of children must come first
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
Professor Kim Oates, Fellow of the RACP's Paediatrics & Child Health Division and Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Sydney, said there are more effective ways to discipline children.
"Discipline is an essential part of good parenting, and effective discipline is about guiding a child so that they learn appropriate behaviour, and is grounded in a positive, supporting, loving relationship between parent and child."
While physical punishment may appear to be an effective means of shaping children's behaviour in the short term, studies have shown that children do not actually learn the desired behaviour.
Instead, they learn to avoid the negative behaviour in the presence of the adult.
The RACP recommends that legal defences in Australia for the use of corporal punishment be amended and the law clarified to state that all forms of corporal punishment are unlawful, so the law protects children from assault to the same extent that it does all people.
The RACP acknowledges that this may take time to be become accepted and instituted in Australia and believes the process and the public discussion on this this important issue should be commenced.
Community attitudes to physical punishment for children remain divided and while studies have shown that the majority of Australian parents still smack their children, support for the practice is declining.
In 2002, 75% of surveyed adults in Australia agreed with the statement that it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child - this decreased to 69% in 2006.
In the 33 countries where the physical punishment of children is illegal, there is evidence that both the legal change and the accompanying public dialogue are shifting attitudes.
Countries that have banned the physical punishment of children have also seen other benefits including increased early identification of children at risk of abuse, and very low rates of mortality associated with child abuse.
Associate Professor Susan Moloney said the RACP's paediatricians are committed to protecting children.
"Many cases of physical abuse are the result of physical punishment that became more severe than intended and the difficulty with allowing the physical punishment of children is that the line can be easily blurred between abuse and 'reasonable' force or chastisement that is currently permitted in some states when disciplining a child," she said.
The RACP is releasing a Position Statement which contains links to resources for positive discipline strategies and parenting support.
The RACP's Paediatrics & Child Health Division is also launching a brochure, put together by doctors and parents, on how to manage a child's behaviour without smacking.