Most adults support ban on slapping children

Children’s organisations call for new law

ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan said the numbers show that the time is right to implement a complete ban. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

ISPCC director of services Caroline O’Sullivan said the numbers show that the time is right to implement a complete ban. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 



A new study has revealed the number of Irish parents slapping their children has increased while 57 per cent of adults would support making physical punishment illegal.

Support for the ban was highest in the under-35 and over-65 age groups.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the Children’s Rights Alliance are calling for the Government to introduce new legislation to make corporal punishment illegal. The organisations said it was time Ireland followed in the footsteps of the 16 EU countries that have outlawed the practice.

Illegal
The study, commissioned by the ISPCC in 2013, showed 62 per cent of people in the country already believed slapping a child was illegal.

ISPCC director of services Caroline O’ Sullivan said this number showed now was the right time to implement a complete ban.

The survey also showed 62 per cent of parents had slapped children last year, compared to 25 per cent of adults in 2009.

Ms O’ Sullivan said the majority of parents explained it was rarely they resorted to physical punishment but the increased figure was upsetting.

“We know slapping is harmful, it is ineffective and has innumerable negative effects,” she said.

Discipline
However, Ms O’ Sullivan said attitudes were changing as 73 per cent of adults did not view slapping as an effective way to discipline a child. “You don’t teach someone how to do something by hitting them across the head,” she said. “There’s overwhelming evidence it does not work. Discipline and punishment are not the same thing.”

Children’s Rights Alliance chief executive Tanya Ward said the majority of parents surveyed felt guilt and remorse after the act. “Because it is wrong,” she said.

Ms Ward said it was “unacceptable” physical punishment was allowed in Irish law and it was important for the Government to remove the common law defence of “reasonable chastisement”.

“Legislate for an outright ban on violence against children in all settings,” she said. “Ireland is now out of step with most of the EU.”

Ms Ward said making corporal punishment illegal had not “clogged up” the courts in other 34 countries that had done so around the world. “The legislation isn’t about criminalising parents; it’s about changing attitudes,” she said.

However, a spokeswoman for Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said recent Government research from “Growing up in Ireland” showed the majority of parents do not use smacking as a form of discipline.

She said the Government was committed to protecting children’s rights, including the proposal to amend the Constitution and reforms of the child protection services.

“General development of norms within Ireland and positive support and encouragement to parents has brought about a situation where physical punishment is increasingly avoided,” she said.