Majority of public want children in England to have same protection from assault as adults

Posted: 31st March 2023

We’re calling on the Westminster Government to give children in England equal protection from assault by scrapping the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.

Our call to action comes on the one-year anniversary of the introduction of equal protection in Wales, which made any type of corporal punishment, including smacking, hitting, slapping, and shaking, illegal.

Wales and Scotland are among more than 60 other countries around the world that have brought in similar measures to give children the same protection from assault that adults have.

The moves in other countries reflect a growing evidence base on the detrimental effects of, and changing public attitudes to, physical punishment of children.

Researchers at University College of London (UCL) and an international team of experts have analysed 20 years of research on the topic. Their conclusion in 2021 was that physical punishment is ineffective and harmful and has no benefits for children and their families.

Over the last year our Childline service has also delivered hundreds of counselling sessions to children and young people who reached out for help with their concerns about physical punishment.

To coincide with the milestone anniversary in Wales we’ve revealed the results of a new YouGov survey of almost 3,500 adults across England, which shows1:

  • For a second year in a row two thirds of people (67%) across England think physically disciplining a child isn’t acceptable.
  • Of those who expressed an opinion 63% believe that a change of law to remove the defence should be passed in England. Surprisingly, almost three in five (60%) thought it was already illegal to physically punish a child.
  • The majority (61%) of adults in England who express an opinion believe physical punishment weakens the relationship between a parent and their child.
  • An even higher percentage of the public (67%) who express an opinion believe physical punishment has a negative impact on a child’s mental health.
  • When asked about the impact on the child 46% believe physical punishment worsens their behaviour compared to 39% who said it makes it better (also of those who expressed an opinion).

The UCL research also showed physical punishment does not improve children’s behaviour and instead increases behavioural difficulties, such as aggression and anti-social behaviour.

It also revealed that children who are the recipients of physical punishment are at increased risk of being subjected to more severe levels of violence2.

We’ve long promoted positive alternatives to physical punishment.

Source: Majority of public want children in England to have same protection from assault as adults | NSPCC

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