NZ Research: Only one in ten parents believe smacking is effective

June 15, 2009

More evidence is emerging that Kiwi parents are favouring positive parenting strategies for disciplining their children over smacking or hitting.

New Zealand is nearing the second anniversary of the law change that gave children the same legal protection against assault as adults.

New information on family discipline practices is being presented tomorrow (Tuesday June 16 2009) in Wellington at the Families Commission annual research seminar.  The early findings are from the second report on a study of 100 families carried out by Otago University researchers Julie Lawrence and Anne Smith.  The report, funded by the Commission, will be published in a few months.

Professor Smith said, “In our research four out of ten of the parents said that they occasionally smacked their children. However, less than one in ten felt it was effective.”

In contrast, timeout, which was the most commonly used disciplinary strategy was thought to be effective by four out of ten parents.

“Parents who had been brought up being whacked as children were often determined to do it differently and had moved away from smacking their own children.”

Professor Smith said the parents in the study were much less accepting or supportive of physical punishment than those in studies done ten and 20 years ago.  These latest findings agreed with a 2008 survey done funded by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.

Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Dr Jan Pryor, says the repeal of Section 59 sent a clear signal that hitting children was not acceptable and this study shows attitudes appear to be changing.

“Consistent parenting strategies which use rewards, distraction and consequences such as timeout are proven to be more effective at teaching children self discipline than physical punishment.

“The law is working well, parents are not being criminalised for trivial offences and there is growing understanding and use of positive parenting strategies,” she said.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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