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Commission responds to new research on smacking

11 October 2006

Families Commission responds to new research on smacking

A new Dunedin study that shows light smacking does not appear to harm children also shows that over half of the children studied were strapped or hit with objects and some were injured or severely beaten.

“There is strong international research that shows the harder a child is hit, the more damaging are the effects on their future wellbeing, and it is for this reason that Section 59 must be repealed,” says the Chief Commissioner of the Families Commission, Rajen Prasad.

Repeal will send a signal to society that any kind of hitting children is not endorsed by the State.

“Repeal is one measure among many that is needed to change New Zealand’s culture of violence and reduce family violence. There also needs to be extensive public education to encourage parents to learn a variety of strategies for disciplining children without using physical force,” said Dr Prasad.

New Zealand is at a tipping point where the public outrage and concern at the levels of violence can be used to bring about social change, he said.

“Our politicians have the opportunity right now to show real leadership in the effort to eliminate family violence and continue with a broad range of strategies to address the death, injury and destruction within New Zealand families,” he said.

“If we can raise our children without raising a hand, we teach them that hitting people is not acceptable. This in turn will reduce their tolerance for violence and help create a safer society,” he said.

We must take all the steps we can to foster healthy, positive relationships within our families. This includes ending our tradition of smacking our children.

The Commission is aware there is concern among some parents that repeal may lead to an increase in prosecutions. There is no evidence that this has happened in other countries where similar changes have been made in the law. In New Zealand there are also safeguards within the justice system that give police options other than prosecution, including warnings, cautions and pre-trial diversion, he said.

“Police do not prosecute for trivial offences now, and we do not expect that to change,” he said.

ENDS

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