Posts Tagged sweden

Report on Sweden’s corporal punishment ban after 30 years

February 12, 2010

In September 2009 the Swedish Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and Sweden’s Save the Children published Never Violence – Thirty Years on from Sweden’s Abolition of Corporal Punishment, 2009. The report briefly outlines the background of the ban, reports on trends since the 1979 law change and corrects claims made by opponents.

Trends reflect the decline in support for physical punishment in Sweden:

  • in the 1960s, over 50% of children had been ‘smacked’ once or several times per year
  • by 2000, only around 10% were smacked
  • about 9% of parents still believe in using cp
  • there has been a sharp decline in punishment by punching and using implements

The report also contradicts claims made by opponents in Sweden and elsewhere:

  • the percentage of reported assaults on children that are prosecuted has not increased
  • increased reports of suspected assaults reflect public awareness- not more assaults
  • youth crimes of theft and property damage have decreased, not increased
  • violent crime rates have stayed relatively constant, not increased
  • there is no indication of increased criminality among young people.

The full report may be read on the Swedish Government’s English language website.

Dear NZ: – what the rest of the world thinks about the referendum

August 17, 2009

Dear NZ: Save The Children Sweden has launched a new website, to tell New Zealand what the rest of the world thinks about our referendum.

They’ve also set up a Twitter account, @nzabuse, to show real time comments.

It just goes to show that what’s happening here in Aotearoa is of international importance.

We are not alone, and the whole world is watching.

Swedish Newspaper: NZ Referendum “tragic”

August 13, 2009

How does our referendum on smacking look to the world? Not good. Journalist Lotta Hördin wrote this editorial for independent newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad the fifth largest morning paper in Sweden on New Zealand’s “tragic referendum”.

It’s never right to hit children (8th August, 2009 – Helsingborgs Dagblad)
Tragic referendum in New Zealand

Raising children using violence should definitely be a thing of the past. Unfortunately this is not the case. This is illustrated by the current referendum in New Zealand. Sweden was the first in the world to illegalize hitting children in 1979. Here (in Sweden) how could anyone think about changing this law? But in New Zealand, who introduced the law in 2007, an organization called Family First gathered enough signatures to force the politicians to carry out a referendum. The referendum is now underway.

The current opinion polls show that the majority of New Zealanders think a little “smacking” should be allowed. Indicating they want to remove the current law.

It was not easy when the law was introduced here (in Sweden). In the 1920’s a law called “Husaga” allowed the master of the house to hit his wife, children and servants. Up until 1958 teachers were allowed to hit students. But in the 1960’s public opinion turned and laid the foundations for the current law.

Since then 23 countries have created a similar law including our Nordic neighbors, and many other European countries. However, in the UK you are still allowed to smack your child and even in USA it is allowed in the home. In some states it is also allowed in the schools.

A law against smacking children doesn’t mean that all the violence stops. That’s illustrated in the statistics. Children get smacked and abused even in Sweden. You need more than a law to change bad behaviour, but from society’s side prohibition is an important signal. It also provides an opportunity to hold the offender accountable to the law. The increase in the reports of child abuse we have seen (in Sweden) can relate to fact that the tolerance levels have been lowered and in some way this is thanks to the law.

Children are vulnerable and defenseless to adults, therefore it is important that there are laws to protect them when people in their close environment fail. In New Zealand the opposition to the law argues that parents that give their children a smack on the bum are criminals. But where do you draw the line?

Well of course you draw the line that all violence is illegal otherwise you’re skating on thin ice. Raising children should, above all, be built on good communication and mutual respect. That is not to say that the adult surrenders and lets the child take over and decide everything. But violence large or small should be forbidden. The referendum in New Zealand is to illustrate public opinion on the issue. Leading politicians are planning not to vote and a NO to the law will be a hot potato to handle, but it shouldn’t be. The only right thing, of course, is that New Zealand in the future has a law against smacking children.

Swedish MP dismayed to learn of NZ referendum

August 13, 2009

The Local, an English language publication in Sweden reports that Liberal Party MP Helena Bargholtz is dismayed to learn that New Zealand is holding a referendum to reintroduce smacking.  She says,

I am so disappointed learning from the Swedish media about the referendum in New Zealand as to whether corporal punishment should be reintroduced.

Hitting people is wrong – and children are people too. Corporal punishment of children breaches their fundamental rights to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity.

Its legality breaches their right to equal protection under the law. The rights of all children – the smallest and most fragile of people – must be fully respected.

Read the entire article at The Local.

Joan Durrant: Child abuse in Sweden and the corporal punishment ban

June 12, 2009

Child Abuse in Sweden
By Joan E. Durrant, Ph.D.
April 9, 2003

For a number of years, various media have carried reports stating that child abuse has increased in Sweden since the passage of the 1979 corporal punishment ban. This statement, which was recently given new life in the Canadian Charter Challenge to Section 43 of the Criminal Code, is completely erroneous. All available evidence indicates that Sweden has been extremely successful in reducing rates of child physical abuse over the past few decades and that reduction has been maintained since the passage of the corporal punishment ban. The purpose of this brief report is to disseminate accurate information on this issue.

1 Reporting Rates vs. Rates of Actual Abuse
The claim that child abuse has increased in Sweden is primarily based on misinterpretation of assault report statistics. It is the case that reporting of child physical assault has increased in Sweden since the 1970s – as it has in every nation that has raised awareness of the issue of child abuse. Reporting rates are by no means equivalent to rates of actual abuse. They are sharp reflections of/strongly tied to shifts in public awareness.

For example, in the early 1960s, it was estimated that about 300 children were being maltreated in the U.S. By 1990, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect had officially recorded 2.4 million reported cases. By 1993, they had recorded almost 3 million cases. It is highly unlikely that actual child maltreatment increased by a factor of 10,000 in that period. It is also highly unlikely that only 300 children were maltreated in the U.S. in the early 1960s.

It is a well-known fact that when mandatory reporting laws, public education campaigns, and other measures are implemented to increase awareness, reporting will increase. This is the goal of such measures. The Swedish reporting figures have been cited as if they are actual rates of abuse, which they are not.

Recently the Swedish National Crime Prevention Council examined 434 cases of assaults on young children within the family that were reported to the police in 1990 (all cases) and 1997 (every other case). It was found that the proportion of cases involving serious injuries sustained by children in this age range had decreased substantially. The majority of reported assaults result in minor injuries or no injuries at all. On the basis of an extensive analysis of the data, the National Crime Prevention Council concluded that there has been an increase in the propensity to report cases of assault on young children, and that it is this increase that is responsible for most, if not all, of the rise in the number of such offences reported to the police (Nilsson, 2000, p. 68).

2 Prevalence of Child Physical Assault Across Time
Studies conducted at various points in time demonstrate that the prevalence, frequency and harshness of assaults against children have declined dramatically in Sweden over the last two generations. Substantial proportions of women who became mothers in the 1950s struck their children at least weekly (e.g., 55% of mothers of 4-year-old daughters; 20% of mothers of 8-year-old sons) (Stattin et al., 1995). Among 3- to 5-year-old children of that generation, implements were used by 13% of mothers (Stattin et al.,1995).

In contrast, 86% of youth who were born in the 1980s report never having been physically punished (Janson, 2001). Of those who were, the vast majority experienced it no more than once or twice in their childhoods (SCB, 1996). Virtually no children are hit with implements in Sweden today.

It is important to note that legislative reform began many decades ago in Sweden. The corporal punishment ban was the end, not the beginning, of legal changes in that country. Most notably, the provision excusing parents who caused minor injuries to their children through physical punishment was repealed from the Swedish Penal Code in 1957. The explicit ban on physical punishment was implemented 22 years later.

3 Child Abuse Fatalities
The incidence of homicides of children under the age of 5 can provide an estimate of child abuse mortality, as it is these children who are most vulnerable to fatal injury and the contribution of other forms of external violence is minimized among this age group. Between 1975 and 2000, the average annual number of homicides of children aged 0 to 4 in Sweden was 4. The average incidence between 1995 and 2000 (2.8) was lower than that between 1975 and 1980 (4.0) – despite population growth.

The World Health Organization (2002) provides homicide incidence figures for children aged 0 to 4 in Sweden (1996), Canada (1997) and the United States (1998).1 These figures are:

Sweden: 3
Canada: 24
United States: 723

(Canada’s population is approximately 3 times larger than Sweden’s. The U.S. population is approximately 20 times larger than Sweden’s.)

Child homicides attributable specifically to physical abuse (excluding homicide-suicides, neonaticide and postnatal depression) are virtually non-existent in Sweden. Between 1976 and 2000 (the most recent year for which statistics are currently available), a total of 4 children died in Sweden as a result of physical abuse.

There is no evidence to support the claim that child abuse has increased in Sweden since corporal punishment was banned there in 1979. In fact, Sweden has maintained a very low rate of child abuse internationally for more than 25 years.

Three Important Points

  • It is important to note that Sweden’s law was intended to affirm children’s rights; it was not expected to end all abuse of children for all time. North American assault laws have not eliminated assaults against adults, yet we recognize their importance in setting a standard of non-violence for the society, sending a clear message, and affording protection to those who have been harmed. This was the fundamental intent of Sweden’s corporal punishment ban.
  • Legislative reform in Sweden began in 1928, when corporal punishment was forbidden in secondary schools. It was 1957 when the legal defence of reasonable correction was repealed from Sweden’s Penal Code. The ban must be viewed within its historical context to be understood.
  • Since Sweden passed its ban on corporal punishment in 1979, 10 other nations have followed: Finland, Norway, Austria, Denmark, Cyprus, Croatia, Latvia, Israel, Germany, and Iceland. The purpose of these bans is to explicitly recognize children’s rights to protection under the law – the same rights that adults take for granted. In addition, Italy’s highest court has ruled that “the use of violence for educational purposes can no longer be considered lawful.”

1 Rates per population are not available for Sweden and Canada due to their low incidence. Incidence rates are presented here for the most recent years for which data were available in the WHO World Report on Violence and Health (2002).

Nilsson, L. (2000). Barnmisshandel: En Kartläggning av Polisanmäld Misshandel av Små Barn. Brottsförebyggande rådet; Stockholm.

Janson, S. (2001). Barn och Misshandel. A Report to the Swedish Governmental Committee on Child Abuse and Related Issues. Statens Offentliga Utredningar; Stockholm.

SCB (1996). Spanking and Other Forms of Physical Punishment: Study of Adults= and Middle School Students= Opinions, Experience, and Knowledge.@ Demografiska Rapporter, 1.2.

Stattin, H., Janson, H., Klackenberg-Larsson, I., & Magnusson, D. (1995). ACorporal punishment in everyday life: An intergenerational perspective. (J. McCord, ed.) Pp 315-347. Cambridge University Press; Cambridge.

World Health Organization (2002). World Report on Violence and Health. Author; Geneva.

Joan E. Durrant, Ph.D., is a Child-Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Family Studies at the University of Manitoba. She is an internationally recognized expert on the Swedish ban. Over the past decade, she has conducted extensive research on this law and has lived in Sweden for extended periods to gain a full understanding of its history, implementation and effects.

Swedish student Maria Bjornfot talks about the NZ Child Discipline Law

May 28, 2009

maria-bjornfotMaria Bjornfot, a Social Work student from Sweden, came to spend three weeks with the Barnardos office in Waitakere as part of her study. While she was there, Annie Gordon took the opportunity to ask her about her experiences growing up in Sweden, with particular reference to Sweden’s child discipline law.

Annie: Maybe you could start by telling us briefly why you have chosen to be here in Waitakere at Barnardos at this time?

Maria: I have a great interest in children and social work so I was very happy when you accepted me at your agency. When I had the opportunity in my social work studies to go where ever I wanted in the world it was an easy choice. I have always been interested in how it looks and feels to be on the other side of the world. And the Lord of the Ring movies with all the beautiful sceneries contributed to my great interest in New Zealand.

Your situation is very interesting to me in that you come from Sweden and were born in 1979, the year of the law change regarding physical punishment of children. Can you tell us something about the ways you were disciplined when you were growing up?

When I grew up in Sweden the child discipline law had already changed and what I can remember of my childhood was more threats of physical punishment rather than being hit. But sometimes I remember my father took me by my ear or grabbed my hair. That was in the early days when the law was still new. In my later years I can’t remember any physical punishment for me or my brother. Of course we argued but it was more reasoning by my parents and if we had tantrums they ignored us or left the room.

Was this a typical situation for children at that time?

I think so, for most people it was a gradual change.

How would you say your experience differs from how children are disciplined in Sweden today?

Today in Sweden we have developed different strategies in child discipline. There is very little physical punishment that you hear about. We still are talking a lot about parenting issues though. Parents in Sweden today are struggling between full time work, their own hobbies and giving their children attention. Parents try very hard but don’t find time enough for everything. This often leads to parents feeling very bad about themselves, and to compensate they let their children do anything they want and this can also be a problem and has become a big topic of conversation.

Is there much or any opposition to the child discipline law in Sweden anymore?

No, not at all, although we still sometimes have the older people talking about the early days [before the law change] that children had more respect back then. But I think older persons are like that all over the world, afraid of the new things that happen.

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