Posts Tagged terry dobbs

Terry Dobbs: Research shows that smacking does not work as a disciplinary tool

August 7, 2009

Terry Dobbs wrote an insightful piece in today’s Herald, discussing the results of her research and its implications for improving behaviour outcomes for our children.  Here are some excerpts:

Proponents of smacking argue it is not child abuse and that smacking and child abuse are not related issues. They claim that physical punishment is only used as a last resort, that smacking is lightly administered and harmless and should be used when a parent is calm and loving.

But how real is this – what do children tell us? In 2005, as part of her Master’s thesis at Otago University, she interviewed 80 children aged between 5 and 14 years old about their experiences and understanding of family discipline. They were from ordinary New Zealand households with no history of child abuse or neglect.

Some 91 per cent of children in the study said they had been physically punished.

Adults may define a smack as something a lot gentler than a hit, but children were clear that a smack is a hard hit that hurts both emotionally and physically.

Fear and pain may sometimes achieve short-term obedience, but in the long term these emotions are unlikely to contribute to positive behavioural outcomes or promote children’s effective learning.

Many of the children believed smacking did not work as a disciplinary tool. They said that the use of time out, having privileges removed or being grounded were far more effective means of discipline.

The children’s responses render many adults’ claims and justifications highly suspect. It is also concerning that quite large numbers of children reported adult behaviour that was in fact abusive.

[Progressing to more effective discipline techniques means] moving on from a number of deeply held and understandable attitudes and emotions – coming to terms with the fact that your own loving parents hit you (they knew no better), that you may have harmed your child’s development (it’s never too late to change that) and that the law can be regarded as a positive move for children rather than an unwelcome imposition on adults.

Our 2007 child discipline law is only two years old – let’s give it time to help New Zealand grow happy, healthy children.

Read the whole article.

Also see a copy of the report “Insights”, which describes the results of Terry Dobbs’s work, and was commissioned by Save the Children

Insights: Children and young people speak out about family discipline

May 8, 2009

Insights [download PDF] is a Save the Children commissioned study into children’s perspectives on family discipline. The findings of the study, conducted by child advocate Terry Dobbs, show an alarming rate of physical punishment used in ordinary Kiwi families and supports the current Child Discipline Law. The research was launched in 27 September 2005 prior to the law reform that made New Zealand the first English speaking country in the world to have banned the physical punishment of children. The findings published in Insights are still very relevant today – and send a strong message to parents that physical punishment does not work.

More than nine out of ten (92%) of the 80 children aged between five and 14 years interviewed for the study said they had been or that they believed children were smacked. Some reported being hit around the face and/or head and with implements and many described it as the first line of discipline the parent used, rather than a last resort.  They reported parents were often angry or stressed when they smacked– and would later express regret or offer ‘treats’ to compensate. Children said smacking made them feel angry, upset and fearful – and was not an effective form of discipline.

“The information contained in this study is crucial for every parent and caregiver of children in New Zealand,” Save the Children New Zealand executive director Phil Abraham says.

“Children’s voices are often missing from the debate around family discipline and effective parenting. The level of physical punishment reported in the study is shocking and delivers crucial information for the debate around the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961. Children need to be listened to in discussions about issues that affect them. They have some important messages which challenge the assumptions of many parents out there”.

The study also found children were more often hit by fathers and male members of the household and were more often physically punished for hurting others.

“This sends a contradictory message to children,” Terry Dobbs says. “Children are told that it is wrong to hurt someone else and yet they are hurt in response to hurting others, this is a confusing message for children”

Children suggested that parents should stop being angry, and talk to children explaining what the child had done wrong before administrating any family discipline, as this would have better outcomes for both children and parents. They said that talking with children about the rules the child had broken would assist the child’s understanding, rather than using physical punishment, which did not. They said using ‘time-out’, having privileges removed or being grounded were more effective means of discipline.

The research formed the basis of Ms Dobbs’s thesis for her Master of Arts in Childhood and Youth Studies, supervised by Otago University’s Children’s Issues Centre.

The children were chosen from 10 different schools – ranging from decile one to 10 – across five geographical locations in New Zealand.

To fit the criteria for the study, the children had to have no known or alleged history of abuse or neglect and sufficient verbal skills to participate in focus group discussions. They were questioned using a storybook methodology about their experiences and understanding of family discipline and their views of the effects of various disciplinary techniques.

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

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