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Monday, January 11, 1999 Published at 10:14 GMT


Smacking children 'does not work'

The report suggests other non-physical forms of punishment

Most children see smacking as any other kind of hitting and have negative feelings about their parents after being physically disciplined, according to a new report.

Research by Save the Children and the National Children's Bureau found that children understood they had to be told off if they misbehaved, but researchers suggested alternative punishments such as going without pocket money or being sent to their bedrooms might be more effective.

Report author Carolyn Willow: "We need to take children's views seriously"
The report concluded: "The children's opinions have confirmed the belief of Save the Children and NCB that smacking does not work and that the best and safest way forward is to ban all forms of physical punishment and encourage alternative ways of disciplining children."

Discussions with more than 70 children aged four to seven indicated that children felt smacking reinforced cycles of violent behaviour and did little to help build up a positive relationship between parent and child.

'Worrying' results

The report follows a campaign launched last week by the two organisations called Children are Unbeatable designed to persuade the government to give children the same legal protection against assault as adults.

Out of the 76 children consulted for the report, 19 said they had been smacked on the head, face or cheek, a figure which the charities described as "worrying".

One child said: "You feel you don't like your parents any more" and another said: "It makes you feel horrible inside."

The comments also showed that many children did not see much difference between parents smacking children and other forms of hitting. They compared smacking with being hit by bullies and realised they could not hit back when they were smacked because their parents could hit harder.

One seven-year-old girl said parents should be given a "prescription" warning them not to hit their children on the head in case they caused brain damage.

Smacking law reviewed

Following a European Court ruling last year, the government plans to clarify the existing law on smacking, which allows parents to use "reasonable chastisement" against their children.

Last September, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British law on corporal punishment in the home failed to protect children's rights, after considering the case of a boy who had been beaten by his stepfather with a three-foot garden cane between the ages of five and eight.

The stepfather was acquitted by a British court of causing actual bodily harm. He had argued that the beating was "reasonable chastisement".

The 14-year-old boy was awarded £10,000 damages against the government and £20,000 legal costs.

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