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  • Writer's pictureJibin Vakanil

Foster Care: Say NO to corporal punishment

Spanking children can cause long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child's IQ, according to a new Canadian analysis

While spanking is certainly not as widespread as it was 30 years ago, many still cling to the practice and see prohibiting spanking as limiting the rights of parents. Sweden was the first country in the world to ban smacking in the home when it outlawed corporal punishment in 1979. Scotland become the 58th to do so in 2020. The argument existed ever since or even before Sweden outlawed corporal punishment in 1979 was whether parents should have the right to determine how their children are disciplined.

That point of view highlights the difficulty in changing hearts and minds on the issue, despite a mountain of accumulated evidence showing the damage physical punishment can have on a child and in the research, there really is no controversy. What are the effects of physical punishment:

  • makes children more aggressive and antisocial

  • can cause cognitive impairment and developmental difficulties.

  • it may reduce the brain's grey matter in areas relevant to intelligence testing.

  • internalising kinds of difficulties, like depression and substance use.

Despite general belief and support of religion, there are no studies that show any long-term positive outcomes from physical punishment.

While banned in 58 countries, corporal punishment of children retains at least partial social acceptance in much of the world, including in England. Debates on the issue typically revolve around the ethics of using violence to enforce discipline.

Interestingly,190 countries in the world ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a 1989 treaty that sets out protections for children.The treaty - includes a passage stating that countries must protect children from "all forms of physical or mental violence" Scotland's ban on parents smacking their children has become law, making it the first part of the UK to outlaw physical punishment of under-16s. Parents and carers were previously allowed to use physical force to discipline their children if it was considered "reasonable chastisement". Introduction of the new law means that the so-called "justifiable assault" defence is no longer available. It seeks to give children the same protection from assault as adults.

In January, Wales was the second part of the UK to pass a law banning people from smacking their children. It will begin in 2022. There are not currently any plans for England or Northern Ireland to follow suit.

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