The claim that smacking/spanking has bad mental health outcomes is based on the old fallacy that correlation is causation. The bad mental health among some children who are smacked could be a CAUSE rather than the result of the smacking. Ill-behaved children are more likely to be smacked and mental health problems can cause bad behaviour. See here for an example of the research concerned
My father never laid a hand on me nor did I ever lay a hand on my son but both of use are quiet intellectual types not drawn to any kind of florid behaviour. But all children are not the same and some children do need pressure to observe boundaries. And smacking is a clear sign that a boundary has been transgressed.
Karl Stefanovic has furiously shot down plans to introduce a ban on Australian parents giving their kids a smack.
University of Melbourne Professor Sophie Havighurst supports the idea of making corporal punishment illegal, saying it 'has effects on children in a whole range of different ways'.
She referenced research from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study that found 61 per cent of young Aussies had been smacked at least four times in their life. 'We now know that that doubles their chances of anxiety and depression,' Prof Havighurst told The Today Show on Thursday morning.
But Stefanovic wasn't having any of it, saying there was no need for a law change. 'I don't want to see any more legislation around me as a parent, my head explodes,' he said.
'And the idea of parents being charged or going into court for smacking a child. I mean, come on, Sophie, give me a break, please.'
The professor said she wasn't seeking any consequences for those who use physical punishment on their children, but wanted the law to change. 'Any form of smacking or physical discipline has been found to have a negative effect on children,' she said.
Sixty-three countries around the world have made physical punishment against children illegal including Scotland, Sweden and Korea.
Prof Havighurst said the law change hadn't led to an increase in prosecution of parents who hit their kids in any of those countries. She said banning the behaviour would lead to a cultural and attitude change among Aussie parents.
The expert sympathised with Stefanovic's concerns parents would be charged for smacking their children, but said discussion around the topic was important. 'We all have times when we lose it ... but in New Zealand when they changed the law in 2007, they didn't get an increase in what you're fearful of,' she said.
'We don't want the government and police having more involvement in our family lives but we do know that law change can guide us to use other ways of parenting and that's really important.'
Australia's former deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth also weighed in on the matter, saying the bottom line was that parents should not smack their kids - but that making the behaviour illegal wasn't necessary.
'My view is that governments should do their best to educate and make sure kids are safe,' he said. 'Criminalising aspects of parenting, even those aspects that are wrong, shouldn't be the direction the government should be going in, in my view.'
In Australia it's currently legal for parents to smack their kids but varying states have specific rules on the matter.
In NSW, the physical punishment should not be painful for more than a brief moment, and kids can't be hit on their heads or necks.
In Victoria, there is no legislation surrounding parents applying physical punishment to their kids while in various other states it must be considered 'reasonable under the circumstances'.
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