Protect children

Another reason that hitting can be said to be wrong, comes form evidence found in several reports, that indicate physical punishment is not only ineffective in reaching its goal, but is also wrongly teaching a child violent behaviour and suggesting that this type of behaviour is the way to deal with situations in which someone behaves in a way you don't like.

The American Psychological Association researched the area and concluded that, 'physical punishment may induce obedience in the short term, but over time increases the probability of aggressive and violent behaviour during both childhood and adulthood.' The study by Nobes and Smith 1997 carried out for the Department of Health found that frequently aggressive children were four times more likely to have been severely punished at home than those children who were rarely aggressive.

It does seem therefore from the evidence found in these studies, as well as others, (The Australian National Commission on Violence 1990 and Strauss 1994,) that experiencing violent and aggressive behaviour in the home is a significant predictor of displaying aggression in a range of situations in later life. A study by Straus, Sugarman and Giles-Sims (1997), clearly demonstrated that the more children were physically punished for antisocial behaviour, the more antisocial their behaviour became. Hitting children teaches them to become hitters themselves, as an adult figure is very influential in a child's life.

Adults are looked up to and their behaviour copied as it is seen as the correct way to behave. Thus an adult using physical punishment to discipline a child is wrong not only in the sense that they are violating the child's human rights and causing physical harm, but also in that, through their physical punishment of the child, they are demonstrating to the child that its OK to hurt someone smaller than yourself and hitting is the appropriate method of demonstrating to others your frustrations and solving your problems.

A British study found that, 'the best predictors of having a criminal record by the age of 20 was having been hit once a week at age 11 and having a mother who strongly believed in corporal punishment (Landsberg 1996).

Other research demonstrates that hitting a child as physical punishment for wrong doing and to instil discipline is not effective in its aim anyway. It is claimed that physical punishment overwhelms a child with hurt and anger and therefore leads the child away from realisation of what they have done wrong and fails to teach the child anything about what they did wrong and why. It is therefore usually ineffective in preventing the child from misbehaving in the same way again. The child knows they have done wrong but physical punishment is very ineffective in teaching a child why they have done wrong. A more effective way of getting the child to understand and teach discipline is verbal correction and reasoning with the child. This method is not only more effective than hitting the child, but keeps the child safe at the same time.

It has been argued that because smacking is ineffective the first time at producing 'well behaved' children that punishment may escalate and become child abuse.  There are instances in which hitting a child can be claimed not to be wrong, but these instances are when hitting or grabbing a child is for their own safety. For example to move the child away form the danger of a car in the road or from burning themselves on a hot stove in the house.

The evidence presented in this report clearly demonstrates that hitting a child is not only wrong, but ineffective in achieving its goal. Surely these two things coupled together are enough to advise you that banning the hitting of children would be a worthwhile law to pass in the UK. The evidence reviews suggests that a ban of hitting children would not only be of great benefit to children, protecting their rights but also valuable to the public as a whole in attempting to reduce levels of violence and criminal behaviour within our society.

A survey carried out by the NSPCC showed that the majority of people in England and Wales, that is 58% of people support a change in the law protecting children from being hit, provided parents are not prosecuted for trivial smacks, (NSPCC 2002). The way to enforce a law against hitting children, without compromising the position of a parent in disciplining their children has been demonstrated already in eight countries across Europe, who has already enforced the law. The purpose of the law has been to educate adults in alternative ways to discipline a child without compromising their safety and human rights.

The purpose of the law should not be to punish parents, but protect our children. If parents were perhaps notified of the research which suggests physical punishment is ineffective and may lead to more violent behaviour and advised that the purpose of such a law would be to protect children rather than punish parents, I feel a ban would not be refuted and would ultimately be a very effective way of developing our societies social attitudes and protecting our children form the painful and humiliating practice of violating a child's human rights, that is physical punishment.