Debate over smacking reignited after publication of new research - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 19 April 2013

Parents who show their children regular love and affection can smack them occasionally to no ill effect, new research has found.


Debate over smacking reignited after publication of new research

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 19 April 2013


By Adi Bloom

Parents who show their children regular love and affection can smack them occasionally to no ill effect, new research has found.

Although existing studies show that children who are smacked tend to be more likely to misbehave, a new paper published in the journal Parenting: Science and Practice claims that the effects of harsh discipline can be lessened by a mother's love.

While parents in Britain are allowed to smack their children, since 2004 it has been illegal to cause anything other than a temporary "reddening of the skin" or any injury that is more than "transient and trifling". The rules vary widely in other countries, and in the case of the US on a state-by-state basis.

The new research, however, suggests that big love can counter the damaging effects of tough love.

The academics, from Arizona State University, interviewed 189 Mexican-American teenagers and their parents. They found that teenagers whose mothers showed them relatively little love tended to behave worse, the more they were smacked at home. Where teenagers had very loving mothers, however, there was no relationship at all between their behaviour and the discipline they received at home. The academics did not examine the effects of paternal love on teenagers' behaviour.

In addition, the researchers said that smacking children for poor behaviour was fairly common among the families they interviewed. As a result, the teenagers saw physical punishment as normal, and so tended not to interpret a smack as being particularly harsh or unfair.

In February, British justice secretary Chris Grayling, a member of the government, admitted to smacking his children occasionally when they were younger. "I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally. Sometimes it sends a message," he said.

And last year David Lammy, another politician, said that parents in his London constituency were afraid to discipline their offspring, in case social workers responded by taking the children into care.

"I don't want a return to the days when you could beat a child black and blue," Mr Lammy said. "But I do fear that, for decades, we have been taking away the right of parents to parent."

The academics did not look into the effects of corporal punishment in schools. British teachers have not been allowed to use the cane to discipline pupils since 1987. But, in 1997, the law was changed to permit the use of reasonable force by teachers, in order to prevent fights or violence.




Questions:

  • In your opinion, is corporal punishment ever justifiable? Explain your answer.
  • Is it important for young people to have discipline in their lives? Why/why not?
  • Where could someone go for help and support, or who could they speak to, if they felt under threat of violence? How could you find out more about this?

Resources for you


Smacking children debate

  • Arrange a debate in your classroom on this topic with this lesson plan.

Parental skills

  • PowerPoint slides to teach behaviour and parental skills. Looks at how to control children as a parent without hitting or smacking.

Parenting

  • Help students to understand some of the challenges of parenting with an extensive lesson to support the Asdan course.

Parenting styles

  • General information around the three basic parenting styles commonly referred to in texts. Tie it in by asking the students what their own parents are like, and what kind of parent they think they will make.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

In the news this week


President Barack Obama faced a major setback in his quest to reform gun control laws in the US this week when politicians blocked a measure designed to restrict sales.

The funeral of Baroness Thatcher took place today, with thousands of people gathering in central London for the event and much of the UK capital brought to a standstill.

A huge earthquake which struck south-east Iran near the border with Pakistan, has flattened homes and offices.

North Korea is today celebrating the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founding father, amid ongoing threats of nuclear war from the secretive communist country.



In the news archive index