Whether you discipline your child with a smack or not is a contentious topic. Most parents will admit to smacking their children. In fact, 80 per cent of children are punished physically worldwide. And while more than 50 countries – including France, Scotland and Ireland – have banned smacking children, Australia believes it’s still an acceptable way to punish misbehaviour despite shocking findings from multiple studies.
A new study, adding to the argument against smacking as a form of discipline, has found people who were smacked as children might be more likely to become abusive in their relationships later in life.
Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) found that 68 per cent of adults surveyed who were smacked in childhood were more likely to be physically aggressive towards their partners as adults.
UTMB’s senior author Jeff Temple explained kids who had experienced corporal punishment were more likely to have “recently committed dating violence”.
“While parents may think this form of physical punishment is a good lesson, substantial research indicates that it does way more harm than good,” he said.
To reach this finding, researchers studied around 700 people, with 68 per cent reporting physical punishment in childhood, and 19 per cent admitting to committing dating violence.
Temple said that while evidence keeps stacking up against the use of corporal punishment, the general public – including parents and even some schools – continue to think it’s an acceptable means to punish bad behaviour.
“Parents are a child’s first look at relationships and how conflicts are handled. Corporal punishment is communicating to children that violence is an acceptable means of changing behaviour,” he said.
This study is just another that provides evidence for the argument against smacking children. Earlier this year, University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan found that physical discipline during infancy can be detrimental to both behaviour and mental health in later years.
If you would like to know more about support services available for family and domestic violence contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT.