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Parenting experts call for smacking to be made illegal in Australia

Stewart Perrie

Published 
| Last updated 

Parenting experts call for smacking to be made illegal in Australia

A group of parenting researchers and advocates has started a campaign to have smacking officially outlawed in Australia.

At the moment, physical punishment by a parent towards a child is permissible under the Criminal Code Act 1924.

The code states that it 'lawful for a parent or a person in the place of a parent to use, by way of correction, any force towards a child in his or her care that is reasonable in the circumstances'.

However, the Parenting and Family Research Alliance believes there are no circumstances where smacking should be allowed.

The researchers in the Alliance have published a yet-to-be reviewed scientific paper that says physical punishment is detrimental to kids under pretty much every outcome.

Credit: Loisjoy Thurstun / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Loisjoy Thurstun / Alamy Stock Photo

Director of the Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Child Protection Studies Daryl Higgins told The Australian the country's legislation needs to be updated.

“If I was standing next to you (an adult), and I was to get annoyed and to hit you, that would be assault,” Professor Higgins explained to News Corp.

“It’s just at the moment, under that same law, if I was a parent standing next to my child, I could say, oh, it was for the purpose of chastisement and it was reasonable.

"It wasn’t too hard, it wasn’t a punch in the eye, it was a smack on the bottom. And I would not be charged in any state or territory in Australia.”

He said there are laws around how children are safely restrained in vehicles and there hasn't been an outcry against that measure.

A study published in June this year revealed six in 10 young Australians were smacked by their parents when they were a child. 

Credit: Yee Xin Tan / Alamy Stock Photo
Credit: Yee Xin Tan / Alamy Stock Photo

The findings from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS) found that 61 per cent of Aussies aged between 16 and 24 experienced a form of physical punishment from their parents on more than three occasions while growing up.

The shocking results also found that those who suffered from corporal punishment when younger were almost twice as likely to develop mental health problems. 

The study was conducted nationwide on 8,500 Australians with the aim to help inform government and state policy on a wide variety of issues.

The initial findings show that females who experienced physical punishment as a child were 1.8 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder later in their life, and 2.1 times more likely to experience anxiety.

Meanwhile, males were 1.7 times more likely to develop depression, and 1.6 times more likely to experience anxiety. 

News Corp says there are more than 60 countries who have outlawed smacking.

Featured Image Credit: Artit Oubkaew / Alamy Stock Photo. MBI / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: Australia

Stewart Perrie
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