Child welfare groups have called for slapping to be outlawed after a survey found two in five parents admit to hitting their child.
The survey also found parents are largely at sea when it comes to the best way to discipline a child — two-thirds believe there is not enough information available to them.
Carried out on behalf of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the Children’s Rights Alliance, the survey also found:
* Two in five adults do not support a blanket ban on slapping;
* Almost three-quarters of parents (73%) view slapping as an ineffective disciplinary tool;
* The most popular method of discipline is incentives for good behaviour, with four in five parents subscribing to this;
* Grounding was the least popular, with less than half of parents resorting to this method.
Of the two in five adults who admitted to hitting their child, just 1% said they did it often.
ISPCC director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, said there was overwhelming evidence that slapping is ineffective in changing a child’s behaviour.
“We know that slapping children is harmful, it is ineffective and has innumerable negative effects such as increased aggression in children, increased anti-social behaviour and damage to the parent-child relationship,” she said.
She said it was time for the Government to implement a ban on slapping in all settings without delay.
Corporal punishment has been banned in schools since 1982 but not in the home, despite the fact that Ireland has been found in breach of the European Social Charter — which guarantees social and economic human rights — because of the lack of an explicit prohibition. There is no ban on physical punishment of children by parents/caregivers despite the fact teachers who administer corporal punishment are liable to be charged with assault.
Ireland is in a minority of 11 EU member states not to have outlawed corporal punishment.
Children’s Rights Alliance chief, Tanya Ward, said they were calling on the Government “to remove the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’, and legislate for an outright ban on violence against children in all settings”.
“This is not only a child protection concern but a key human rights issue,” Ms Ward said.
ISPCC regional services manager Tracey Monson said previous surveys of children’s views on slapping had shown “the hurt, upset and confusion it causes”.
A large-scale positive parenting programme was needed, she said.
Responding to the findings, the Department of Children said research it commissioned (Growing up in Ireland) shows that the great majority of parents do not use smacking as a form of discipline and that the most frequently used method was “discussing/explaining” why the behaviour was wrong.
The statement said there was “a balance to be found between supporting parents in effective parenting, in particular, in use of non-violent forms of discipline, and the use of criminal law to impose criminal sanctions on parents who do not adhere to best practice in parenting”.
It also said parents were increasingly avoiding physical punishment.
* Just under a quarter of adults believe corporal punishment is an effective way to discipline a child. This belief is stronger among males.
* Of the three in five who support an outright ban, support is higher among the working class, those living in Leinster, the under-35s and those with children aged under five.
* Older generations were found more likely to have disciplined their children by slapping.
* The survey found slapping appears to be more common outside of Dublin.
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