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Discredited Anti-Smacking Advocate in NZ


25 July 2008

Discredited Anti-Smacking Advocate in NZ

Family First NZ says that Canadian researcher Joan Durrant, who is currently in NZ as a guest of the anti-smacking lobby, has been discredited with her claims made during the anti-smacking debate.

“In fact, her evidence was not even accepted in her home country of Canada when they were debating a similar section to NZ’s s59 of Canada’s Criminal Code,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

A document circulated on behalf of Barnadoes, Plunket, Save the Children, Children’s Commissioner and EPOCH in 2006 stated that “In Sweden, the average annual deaths attributable to child abuse for the past 30 years or so has been less than one every four years.” This was based on a 2000 paper by Joan Durrant A generation without smacking – The impact of Sweden’s ban on physical punishment published by Save the Children which said “The rate of child homicide … in Sweden is something like one every 4 years”

“This statement, now referred to as the ‘Swedish myth’, has proved to be completely inaccurate and Morgan Johansson, the public health minister, said in 2006 that ‘every year, eight to ten, sometimes as many as twelve children die in Sweden due to violence. This has been true for several years.’ Even NZ’s Children’s Commissioner has acknowledged that Durrant’s figures were wrong.”

“Durrant also uses a completely irrelevant definition of child abuse, and excludes the killing of children as a result of neglect, intentional killings, post-natal depression, babies killed within 24 hours of birth, and those accompanied by suicide by the abuser. She has adopted a definition by Somander and Rammer (1991) which also excludes child deaths due to poverty, marital conflicts, alcohol abuse, sparing the child the kind of life led by the perpetrator, and giving no reason for killing the child.”

“No wonder she has misrepresented the effect of the Swedish smacking ban on child abuse rates! Even UNICEF reports have ignored her definition,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Dr Robert Larzelere, who was one of three social scientific expert witnesses on the side of successfully defending a similar section to NZ’s s59 of Canada’s Criminal Code and a member of the Task Force on Corporal Punishment for the American Psychological Association, says that a careful review of Durrant's findings reveals that her conclusions reflect her "unconditional commitment to an anti-smacking perspective more than an objective appraisal of the data available from her sources."

Other conclusions by Dr. Durrant have been criticized by other authors, including her conclusions that the Swedish spanking ban led to decreased support for spanking (Roberts, 2000), that child abuse has not increased since 1979 (Lindell & Svedin, 2001), and that child abuse fatalities have been almost nonexistent since then (Beckett, 2005).

“Family First NZ welcomes open, honest, and robust debate on the anti-smacking law, but Joan Durrant has been well and truly discredited as part of this debate,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Read More: “Sweden’s smacking ban: more harm than good” Robert E Larzelere PhD http://www.familyfirst.org.nz/files/sweden%20smacking%20ban%20-%20more%20harm%20than%20good%20Larzalere.pdf





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