Spanking is currently banned in 62 countries around the world, including Wales and Scotland, and an Australian university has now linked the practice to serious mental health problems in young adults.
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Parents could be banned from inflicting corporal punishment after researchers linked spanking to increased mental health problems in early adulthood.
A study by the Catholic University of Australia found that six out of 10 subjects in a sample of 8,500 people said they had been hit at least four times in their early years.
The study – which focused on respondents aged 16 to 24 – found that girls spanked as children were 1.8 times more likely to develop major depressive disorder.
They were also 2.1 times more likely to experience anxiety than their unspanked counterparts.
Young men reported similar issues, being almost twice as likely to develop depression and anxiety if they were physically punished as children.
Australian Catholic University professor Daryl Higgins is now calling for spanking to be banned after discovering that corporal punishment can be linked to serious mental health problems.
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In Australia – where the practice is still legal – different states have their own rules about what is considered legal when disciplining children.
In NSW the punishment must not cause pain for more than a brief moment and avoid the neck or head – while in Victoria the strike must be considered ‘reasonable in the circumstances’ but still legal.
Similarly, section 58 of the UK Children’s Act 2004 prohibits knocking apart when inflicting “reasonable punishment”.
The rule has become a gray area because what constitutes “reasonable” corporal punishment is not currently defined.
Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne, Prof Higgins said: “It’s time to change the laws and ensure that children are safe from violence at home, just like they are in child care. “
He called for children to be protected from violence by law – in the same way as adults.
Instead of hitting, Prof Higgins said parents should use positive reinforcement techniques to discipline their children.
He said the only benefit of spanking is “immediate compliance” – but that quick fix is ”linked to long-term damage”.
Corporal punishment has been banned in 62 countries around the world.
Wales took a bold step in March by completely banning the practice in a move campaigners hailed as a “historic moment for children and their rights”.
Prime Minister Mark Drakeford introduced the new law, which outlaws all forms of corporal punishment, under the Children’s (Wales) Act.
Children were given the same protection from assault as adults – and the law also became applicable to anyone visiting Wales.
Drakeford said of the legislation: “No more gray areas. All of that is a thing of the past. There is no place for corporal punishment in modern Wales.
Scotland introduced its own ban in November 2020.
Previously in Wales, and as is still the case in England and Northern Ireland, hitting a child was illegal, but such assault was permitted as long as it constituted “reasonable punishment”.