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Statement from Jan Pryor, Chief Commissioner

Media release

Statement from Jan Pryor, Chief Commissioner

The Families Commission is looking forward to working with the two newly announced Commissioners, Christine Rankin and Bruce Pilbrow.

They join five other Commissioners on the Board. Mr Pilbrow will bring with him his strong interest in parenting and we look forward to working with him. The Commission is also aware of Ms Rankin’s commitment to the prevention of child abuse and shares her concern about this issue.

It was this shared concern that led the Board to its unanimous decision to support the new child discipline law. We look forwarding to hearing Ms Rankin’s thoughts on ways to reduce New Zealand’s high rate of family violence and will welcome her input into our future work on this issue.

The law is working well and is achieving what was intended - parents who are charged with assaulting a child can no longer defend themselves in court by claiming they were using reasonable force to discipline the child.

The Commission’s reasons for supporting the law have not changed.

We based our position on research which shows very clearly that positive parenting strategies (such as rewarding good behaviour and distracting young children and ignoring minor unwanted behaviour) are far more effective and safer than physical punishment. Research also shows that most child abuse cases begin as physical punishment. There are risks that smacking can escalate to abuse - and the harder a child is hit, the more damaging it is for their future wellbeing. Hitting children also models violence as a way of resolving conflict.

One of the objectives of law reform was to make the law congruent with positive non-violent parenting messages and the law now clearly states that there is no legal justification for the use of force to correct a child’s behaviour.

This is a direct message to parents encouraging them to use strategies for managing their child’s behaviour that do not include smacking or hitting.

It appears that growing numbers of parents understand this. A Ministry of Health Survey in mid 2007 showed that only 1 in 22 parents considered physical punishment to be effective. Of the parents who had actually used physical punishment in the previous four weeks only one in three considered it to be effective.

Healthy, positive relationships within families do not involve people hitting each other and the Commission continues to believe that repeal was one step that, combined with other nationwide efforts to address violence, will help us become a violence-free society.

ENDS

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