Positive parenting and physical punishment

Positive parenting and physical
punishment: the evidence
Physical punishment
 In England and Wales,
section 58 of the
Children Act 2004
permits parents and
others who have care and
control of a child to raise
the defence of
“reasonable punishment”
for a common assault on
the child.
International picture
 44 states have prohibited
all corporal punishment
in all settings, including
the home
 including New Zealand
– a country rather like
Do parents still smack their children?
 What % of parents smack or physically punish their
children in the UK in one year?
The evidence: ‘meta-analyses’
 Smacking does not work as well as other ways to
reduce negative behaviours in children
 Smacking is associated with
increased aggression in children
increases in mental health problems in childhood and
delinquent behaviour in childhood and criminal behaviour in
negative parent-child relationships
increased risk that children will be physically abused
How do we know this?
 Many studies draw on large-scale longitudinal cohort
studies – ie large numbers of children and their
families followed up regularly over several years
 They can be generalised to the whole population
 They don’t rely on memory – usually ask about
events in the last week.
 Nearly all studies show that smacking independently
associated with poor behaviour – and that it is not
just badly behaved children who get smacked
(chicken and egg)
 'it feels like someone banged you with a
hammer' (5 year old girl)
'it's like when you 're in the sky and you 're
falling to the ground and you just hurt
yourself' (7 year old boy)
'[Children feel] grumpy and sad and also
really upset inside' (5 year old girl)
'[It] hurts your feelings inside' (7 year old
'You feel you don't like your parents
anymore' (7 year old girl)
'it feels, you feel sort of as though you want
to run away because they 're sort of like
being mean to you and it hurts a lot' (7 year
old girl)
'when you get smacked sometimes we get
angry because sometimes when my mum
smacks me you get angry' (6 year old boy)
Positive parenting
 Authoritarian parenting
 Authoritative parenting: high warmth,
clear boundaries
 ‘laissez-faire’/ anything goes parenting
Evidence-based parenting programmes
 E.g. Incredible Years, Triple P, Strengthening Families
 Social learning theory: rewarding positive behaviours
(praise star charts etc), role modelling (no more ‘do as I
say, not as I do!’), problem-solving with the child, active
listening, boundaries and consistency.
 Child knows what to expect. Trusts adults. Feels
respected. Feels secure. Understands that there will be
Does it work? And can it be learned?
 Most studies show that when parents actively use
positive parenting then child behaviour improves
and aggression decreases.
 Parents report decreased stress, more confidence.
 Authoritative parenting is associated with better
outcomes in education, health and wellbeing.
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