Monday, 26 May 2008

NZ HERALD: Poll reveals we're still smacking our children

In the wake of the acquittal of Chris Kahui for murdering his 2 young children and not a thing said in the media by Sue Bradford, she is out again today trying to make good parents who give their children a corrective smack criminals and normalise that-Political Animal

Sue Bradford celebrates the passing of the anti-smacking law in 2007. Photo / Mark Mitchell
5:00AM Monday May 26, 2008
By Angela Gregory
NZ HERALD : Almost half of parents with children under 12 have smacked them in the past year, a survey has found.

The Family First lobby group commissioned a market research company to poll New Zealanders on their attitudes to parental discipline since the anti-smacking law came into effect in June last year.

It found that 48 per cent of respondents with children under 12 had smacked their child after the law change.

The changes to the Crimes Act outlawed the use of parental force against children for purposes of correction.

The issue polarised New Zealanders.

The law change was led by Green MP Sue Bradford, whose private member's bill removed from the Crimes Act the statutory defence of reasonable force to correct a child.

But it was passed only after last-minute changes, approved by a large majority in Parliament, which directed the police not to prosecute inconsequential offences.

Family First's national director, Bob McCoskrie, said he was surprised the polling found so many parents admitting they had flouted the law.

He said 51 per cent of mothers had admitted continuing to smack.

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"For a new law to be ignored by so many people who are willing to risk a police or [Child, Youth and Family] investigation indicates just how out of step with reality this law is."

The nationwide poll surveyed 1018 randomly selected respondents, with a fairly even spread of men and women aged from 18.

About a quarter of the respondents had children under 12.

Mr McCoskrie said the poll followed a similar one done in June last year, just after the new law came into effect.

In that survey, 78 per cent of parents said they would smack their child to correct their behaviour if they believed it was reasonable to do so.

Ms Bradford said yesterday that the new poll indicated an improvement in attitudes, as a year on only 48 per cent admitted having done so.

"We are well on the way; that is a great result," she said.

But Mr McCoskrie said the new poll showed the percentage opposed to the anti-smacking law had risen to 73 per cent from 62 per cent last year.

Men, people aged more than 60 and those from rural areas opposed it most strongly.

He said only 19 per cent strongly or somewhat agreed with the new law despite the police discretion clause, down from 29 per cent last year.

Almost half of those surveyed - 47 per cent - strongly disagreed with the ban on smacking.

Mr McCoskrie said 85 per cent of those polled - up from 82 per cent a year ago - agreed the new law should be changed to state that parents who gave their children a smack that was reasonable and for the purpose of correction were not breaking the law.

He said the polling sent a clear message to political parties seeking support for this year's election.

When asked whether their support for a party would be affected if it promised to change the law, 37 per cent said they would be more likely to vote for that party. This was up from 31 per cent last year.

The number of people whose vote would be unaffected by a policy to change the law fell from 59 per cent last year to 53 per cent this year.

Mr McCoskrie said the results showed New Zealanders had not been fooled by the anti-smacking lobby's claim that smacking was child abuse.

"They haven't been duped by arguments that children are damaged by reasonable smacking, and they have understood that our unacceptable rate of child abuse has far deeper root causes than a loving parent who corrects their child with a smack on the bottom," he said.

Asked if they thought the new law was likely to help reduce child abuse, 79 per cent said it was not at all likely. This figure was up from 77 per cent last year.

Organisers of a petition to reverse the anti-smacking law change have until the end of next month to gain the number of signatures needed to force a non-binding referendum at this year's election.

Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro said yesterday that she had not seen the survey.

But she urged people to move on and learn better parenting skills.

"The key message is, 'For goodness sake, can't we move on?' So much energy has been wasted debating this."

Dr Kiro said people needed to learn and be encouraged in positive parenting.

She believed there was a trend away from physical punishment.* The poll was conducted during the week beginning May 12 and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

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