May 11, 2009
Two articles published in a recent issue of the Social Policy Journal of New Zealand (Issue 34, July 2008) will be of interest to people concerned about child discipline issues.
The first article, Just who do we think Children are? New Zealanders’ Attitudes about Children, Childhood and Parenting: An Analysis of Submissions on the Bill to Repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, is by Sophie Debski, Sue Buckley and Marie Russell. The researchers analysed a sample of the submissions to Parliament on the bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, and used two known social viewpoints of children. In one viewpoint, childhood is seen as a phase of development and children are regarded as unable to reason and in need of constant guidance from adults – in other words, they are seen as “human becomings”. In the second viewpoint children are seen as full human beings entitled to full human rights and capable of contributing positively to society at all stages of their development – in other words, children are seen as “human beings”.
The researchers found that submitters to the select committee who saw children as “human beings” were more likely to support the 2007 law change than those that regarded children as “human becomings”.
The second article by Julie Lawrence and Anne Smith, A place where it’s not ok to hit children, looks at how professionals approach the task of communicating, guiding and advising families with young children about disciplinary issues. They found that parents sought advice on discipline, and that most professionals disagreed with the use of physical discipline but expressed caution about telling parents that they thought smacking was harmful. The research was conducted before the law change and it is possible that professionals now have an added challenge – how to tell parents about the law change.
A major implication of both these pieces of research is the need to continue to raise public awareness about child development, positive child discipline and the law.