Children’s Rights and the movement against corporal punishment
The successes and failures of the children’s rights movement can serve as lessons to animal advocates. It’s an example of advocacy on behalf of a disregarded group of persons, in which members of that group have not been the leading proponents. However, many proponents had previously been hit as children and so could speak of what it felt like in the first person. In some cases this does not appear to have been an influential form of advocacy, but it’s important to recognize this difference may have implications for advocacy techniques.
The analysis below is not enough to determine with precision everything animal advocates can learn from movements on behalf of children. However, the report shows that laws criminalizing violence towards a particular groups of persons does appear to decrease that behavior by means of communicating the new non-violent social norm. Changes in the law in one country may also spread worldwide, as we see in the case of Sweden criminalizing corporal punishment. These changes were also accompanied by less dramatic measures, like reducing the risk of accidents (and thus the perceived need to inflict corporal punishment on children), spreading empathy for children’s situation, and making legal changes easy to support.
Table of Contents
- Why should animal activists be interested in the children’s movement?
- Early violence against children
- The development of children’s rights in England
- Sweden—The ban of corporal punishment
- The effect of the law on behavior
- The impact of precedent-setting
- An investigation of activist activity in children’s rights—New Zealand
- What can animal activists learn?
- Further research?
Why should animal activists be interested in the children’s movement?
The nonhuman animal rights movement is often analogized to human rights movements, and of these analogies the children’s rights movement seems particularly apt and under-studied.
Throughout most of human history children were not entitled to any formally recognized legal rights. The concept still receives little attention in many countries, conspicuously so in the United States.1 Like with other human liberation movements, children have long been considered property (in this case, of their caregivers). However, the emergence of children’s rights stands isolated among such human liberation movements, as one in which the beneficiaries were not the leading proponents- children are not in a position to campaign for themselves, limited in their ability to express their discontent in ways that adults recognise and don’t actively discount2 and possessing little power to resist physical assault. Exploited nonhuman animals are in a similar predicament today; unable to campaign, communicate effectively or resist harm, their interests are almost entirely ignored and property status maintained. The idea that they should be the beneficiaries of rights is often met with fierce opposition.
As if to make the point, the movement to protect children from violence actually benefited from the analogy. In Manhattan 1873 Mary Ellen McCormack was being badly beaten and neglected by her adoptive mother, so much so that her neighbours noticed and informed the Department of Public Charities and Correction (which managed the city’s orphanages, jails, public hospitals, insane asylums, workhouse and almshouse).3 The lack of laws that specifically protected children prompted the caseworker Etta Wheeler to contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.4 The founder of the society Henry Bergh saw the girl “as a vulnerable member of the animal kingdom needing the protection of the state”.5 The ASPCA recruited a lawyer who took the case to the New York State Supreme Court in 1874,6 and Mary Ellen was eventually removed from her adoptive mother’s home before being adopted by Etta Wheeler and some of her family members.7 The case motivated Bergh, her lawyer, and the philanthropist John D. Wright to found the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children- the first child protection organization in the world.8
The analogy between the children’s and animal movements is far from perfect; parents feel love for their children despite the abuse9, 10 and helping children now can benefit third parties down the line—more productive workforce, reduction in healthcare costs from developmental issues, etc.—with animals the benefit is entirely one directional (although it’s possible there may be some positive externalities associated with a generally violence-free society). Nevertheless, understanding the historical movement—including social forces, legal progress, and the tactics employed by advocates—towards the increasing consideration of children’s interests remains an important learning opportunity for animal activists.
Early violence against children
For our purposes it makes sense to focus on violence in the western world, because the western world pioneered children’s rights legislation, and the examples below were chosen so that they can be treated as part of the historical lineage of modern reform. We should note, however, that hunter-gatherers constitute an important exception among human societies, in that they rarely used corporal punishment, if at all.11, 12 This may be due to the egalitarian nature of these societies,13 or because “misbehaviour by a hunter-gatherer child will probably hurt only the child and not anyone or anything else, because hunter-gatherers tend to have few valuable possessions”.14 This is not necessarily indicative of greater recognition of the interests of children, however, as infanticide was prevalent in these societies.15
The child-rearing that dominated much of pre-Enlightenment Western human history can be traced back to the bible. In proverbs 13:24, one reads “He that spareth the rod hateth his son: But he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”. The expression “Spare the rod and spoil the child” was probably coined by an advisor to the King of Assyria in the 7th Century BCE and may have been the source of the proverb.16 Colin Mather, a US puritan minister active around the turn of the 18th century believed that a child was “Better Whipt than Damn’d”.17 Original sin had endowed children with innate depravity which must be beaten out of children if they have any hope of being socialised and/or securing a spot in heaven.
These beliefs seem to be reflected in behavior. Although credible sources are sparse, it appears that severe corporal punishment was common for centuries. For instance, of the data available, a survey carried out in the USA found that 100% of respondents in the second half of the 1800’s were beaten with a weapon of some sort.18 This behaviour was probably the social norm. Psychohistorian Lloyd deMause writes that “Public protest was rare. Even humanists and teachers who had a reputation for gentleness approved of the severe beating of children.” Memories of childhood torment did not deter parents from inflicting similarly harsh punishments onto their offspring, and “Century after century battered children grew up to batter their own children”.19
Some of the earliest significant positive changes in the conceptualisation of children and childhood can be attributed to thinkers of the Enlightenment.20 John Locke’s doctrine of the blank slate and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s notion of ‘original innocence’ along with the ideas of some others from the era led to a radical shift in the conceptualisation of children, predominantly among the elite.21
The 19th century in England saw the implementation of some of the world’s earliest children’s rights legislation. The English example is also particularly important because of the influence it has on the rest of the world, for instance in terms of attitudes to corporal punishment. The Research and Information Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment Sharon Owen tells us that:
“… corporal punishment as a method of “disciplining” children (and wives, servants, apprentices, etc) was spread globally largely in the context of colonialism, slavery, by missionaries etc – so whatever childrearing methods were originally used, the British way was to beat the child – one of our most shameful exports. The English common law defence of “reasonable chastisement” was taken to colonised countries, influencing behaviour but also laws (as ways of living etc were codified), so laws (e.g. criminal codes) around the world which include this or similar provisions can be directly traced to British influence (the Caribbean is a good example, as well as many other commonwealth countries). Ironically, though, many countries which defend whipping, flogging, etc claim it is part of their culture – pointing out that it originated in the context of slavery, say, can be a powerful advocacy moment.”22
The period in which England began implementing laws to protect children will be discussed below.
The development of children’s rights in England
According to the socio-economist Viviana Zelizer, “Until the eighteenth century in England and in Europe, the death of an infant or a young child was a minor event, met with a mixture of indifference and resignation”.23 Historian Lawrence Stone writes that “…in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century very many fathers seem to have looked on their infant children with much the same degree of affection which men today bestow on domestic pets, like cats and dogs”.24 Further, English parents did not (or at least not commonly) buy symbols of mourning to commemorate these deaths through the sixteenth to early eighteenth century and rarely attended young children’s funerals.25
By the nineteenth century things were drastically different. According to Zelizer, “the death of a young child become the most painful and least tolerable of all deaths”.26 The widespread parental mourning was so great that ‘consolation literature’ (which as the name suggests, advised parents on how to cope with their grief) became a popular genre; and by the mid-1850’s children had been dubbed “small household saints” and now had elegant coffins designed if they passed away.27 This domestic grief experienced by parents was soon considered a public concern.28 Whatever the source of the heightened moral status of children, it was partly responsible for the development of precedent-setting children’s rights legislation. However other factors also played a role, including the affluence generated by the industrial revolution, which reduced the need for child labor and generated sufficient tax revenue to provide social services such as free schooling to increase the skill level of the workforce.29
The development of law relating to children was a complicated task. Alongside much resistance to these laws in general, the task was complicated for the lawmakers themselves. Laws are enforcement of rights, and these rights are meant to guarantee the interests of those they affect. However, these interests are only those “which the subject himself or herself might plausibly claim in themselves”, which leads to tricky considerations.30
Broadly speaking, children can be considered as having three interests; basic interests, such as the interest in receiving necessities such as physical and emotional care;31 autonomy interests, which are interests relating to “the freedom to choose his [or her] own lifestyle and to enter social relations according to his own inclinations uncontrolled by the authority of the adult world”;32 and developmental interests, the interest in having “their capacities…developed to their best advantage”.33 These interests are not always in alignment. The autonomy interest diverges from the developmental and basic interests in some cases—consider the desire of a child to procrastinate schoolwork now vs the later regret of his adult self—yet both of these interests are held by the same person at different times in his life. Should the basic and developmental interests trump autonomy interests? More importantly for our purposes, which interests won out in the course of history? Like for children, the autonomy interests of animals are not always in their best long term interests (for instance dogs eating chocolate, which leads to health issues). Understanding what interests won out with children could be instructive in finding the path of least resistance with which to advance animals rights. Children’s rights legal precedents could be used to justify arguments in the courthouse.
The progress of English law relating to children will be documented up to the Infant Life Protection Act of 1897, with the conflicts between different interests being noted throughout. Early English law viewed children as a means to transfer property down the generations. According to historians F. Pollock and F.W. Maitland, the law:
“never laid down any such rule that there ought to be a guardian for every infant. It had been thinking almost exclusively of infant heirs…The law had not even been careful to give the father a right to custody of his children; on the other hand, it had given him a right to the custody of his heir apparent, whose marriage he was free to sell.”34
In a sense, the role of children in society was therefore “furthering the interests of the family group”.35 They were not generally considered to have interests themselves. Other aspects of early law reiterate lack of consideration for the interests of children. The writ of wardship and the action for abduction directly affected children, but were grounded in the father’s proprietary interest.36 No laws required parents to support their children.37 Legislation relating to children aimed at ensuring the interests of the parents, predominantly the father, right up until the late 19th century.38 However, criminal law always protected children from severe injuries inflicted by their parents.39
The Factory Acts passed in the first half of the 19th century were construed to assure the interests of children were respected. The 1833 Act included regulations concerning the age of children allowed to work in factories, the minimum amount of schooling required and the appointment of factory inspectors to ensure the laws are respected.40 By modern standards, these laws would be considered drastically insufficient, but they were a significant improvement
to previous legislation. The Factory Acts were amended throughout the century and became increasingly accommodating to the interests of children.41 As mentioned, the wealth created from the maturing Industrial
Revolution probably made it easier and more appealing to implement these laws. Legislators were forced to decide which of the children’s interests had priority, and developmental interests gained ground faster than autonomous interests. For instance, compulsory and free schooling applied regardless of whether children wanted to attend.42
As mentioned, a relic from this historical era in England has been particularly hindering to the development of corporal punishment laws generally (which we will examine later). The “reasonable chastisement” defence in England, according to Sharon Owen has been “so influential the world over, and is still one of the greatest obstacles to countries achieving prohibition of corporal punishment”.43 This defence comes from a case ruled on by Chief Justice Cockburn in 1860 who said that “By the law of England, a parent…may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, always, however, with this condition, that it is reasonable and moderate”.44
1872 saw the creation of the Infant Life Protection Act. The law was the result of protests against ‘baby-farms’ and required that paid caretakers of at least two infants less than one year of age register to and report deaths to local authorities.45, 46 Sponsor of the Act W.T. Charley argued that it would protect infant life. The law was poorly enforced and was not particularly rigorous—private homes did not have to be inspected, and day nurseries were not taken into account—but it nevertheless represents a clear (albeit half-hearted) acknowledgement that children have interests.47, 48 The law was in line with all three of the children’s fundamental interests. A revision of the Act in 1897 broadened the concern from infants to young children, requiring that all children under the age of 5 be registered.49
Around the same time, there was an increasing willingness to renege the parental interest when the possession of a child by his father was considered to put the child in bodily danger, although this only applied in what would now be considered extreme abuse cases.50 In a similar vein, The first Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act of 1889 made it a crime for over-sixteens who had custody of children to willfully cause them unnecessary harm or suffering, be it from neglect, ill-treatment, abandonment or exposure.51 While it is a clear sign of consideration of children’s interests, other motives may also have been at play, including the Christian evangelical movement’s concern for the nation’s ‘moral health’.52
Widely held social views also played an important part in influencing the development of children’s rights, as the parents’ interests were subordinated to those of the society at large. For instance, parental behaviors perceived as radical, reckless, profane or immoral were often the justification for denying parental custody, because of the ‘repulsive’ nature of their actions. On the other hand, this implies that children’s rights were confounded with and depended on social norms; and one of the prevailing norms of the time was that the interests of parent—as especially father—should be enforced.53
This was undoubtedly a significant hindrance to the development of children’s rights.
In essence, by the turn of the 20th century, children’s interests were legally recognised and were clearly distinct from those of parents (or other third parties). However the scales of justice were still inclined to clearly favour parental interests. When conflict arose, children’s autonomous interests were subordinated to their developmental and basic interests, although there were no major conflicts between the interests in this period because the consideration of children’s interests was such a new phenomenon. The legal intricacies deserve more research elsewhere.
We will now examine in more detail the most important precedent setting children’s rights legislation of the modern era—the abolishment of corporal punishment in all its forms, which occurred in Sweden when they prohibited corporal punishment in the home, having already prohibited it in all other settings.
Sweden—The ban of corporal punishment
“The prohibition of spanking represents a stunning change from millennia in which parents were considered to own their children, and the way they treated them was considered no one else’s business…it is part of the historical current toward a recognition of the autonomy of individuals.”
-Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of our Nature.
Changes in legislation
Sweden can be considered as the pioneering nation in terms of treatment of children in the last half-century. Joan Durrant, a leading researcher into corporal punishment and the Swedish case particularly, explains that:
For 5 years, from 1979-1983, Sweden was unique in the industrialized world for having passed the first explicit ban on corporal punishment. To many of us, particularly those of us living in North America, this appears to have been a radical and, to some, intrusive legal development. However, from the Swedish perspective, the law was the logical conclusion of an evolutionary process that unfolded over a period of decades.54
This “evolutionary process” was inaugurated in 1918 when corporal punishment was banned for “senior grades of elementary school”,55 before being extended in 1928 to include all corporal punishment in secondary school gymnasiums thanks to public concern surrounding severe beatings experienced by children.56 In 1949 the Parenthood and Guardianship Code was amended so that the word ‘punish’ was replaced by ‘reprimand’.57 Despite these changes, parental violence did not decrease sufficiently to satisfy the public and legislators. Most held that this was because the Parents’ and Penal Codes contained explicit legal defenses for corporal punishment, and following a removal of the relevant Penal code section in 1957, the Parents’ Code followed suit in 1966, eliminating the legal ambiguity that had existed in the intervening 9 years.58, 59 The need for corporal punishment in schools was also being questioned in this period. Some schools underwent an experiment in 1959 where they refrained from the use of corporal punishment to evaluate its efficacy. Despite initial resistance to the idea and debate in the media, the experiment changed the opinion of many educators and in turn members of the public and as a result corporal punishment was abolished in child care institutions and reformatory schools in 1960.60 In 1962 this measure was extended to include the entirety of the school system.61 Despite the fact that corporal punishment was no longer explicitly permitted, ambiguity persisted. It was unclear whether corporal punishment was forbidden, or rather not approved of but allowed. The definitive turning point came in 1977. A father who had badly beaten his 3-year-old girl two years previously was acquitted by the court. This prompted a 60,000 person demonstration in Stockholm and the signing of a petition demanding more stringent corporal punishment laws. The government responded by forming a Commission on Children’s Rights to review existing legislation. The Commission proposed an explicit ban on corporal punishment, and following a “remiss procedure” and in 1979 the law was proposed, voted upon, and overwhelmingly passed by the Swedish government.62 It reads:
“Children are entitled to care, security, and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to physical punishment or other injurious or humiliating treatment.”63
No penalties are associated with the law (unless the violence is considered assault, in which case laws against assault apply, just as they apply to adults), which was intended to change the public perception of corporal punishment in the home and as a guide for parents.64, 65
Underlying social currents
Joan Durrant has argued that 1) a recognition of children’s rights and 2) a collectivist approach to social policy, were vital in the success of the 1979 legislation.66 The corporal punishment ban was one of many social/political changes stemming from these two elements of the broader social context.67 The relevant aspects of Sweden’s cultural context in the 20th century will be considered below.
In 1909 recognition of children’s rights spread somewhat with the publication of the Swedish author Ellen Key’s The Century of the Child, in which, while writing about education, she:
‘…emphasized the freedom and individuality of the child; she argued for equality in the home; she was opposed to corporal punishment; she fought for co-education and common schools for all children, regardless of the social class; she saw the activity of the child as central…’68
However, her views on these subjects went unnoticed initially, before later being implemented in Swedish policy.69 The book’s publication occurred soon after the founding of the Social Democratic Party (1889) during a period of rapid industrialization and economic growth along with a
low fertility rate. There was a greater willingness and ability to be concerned for children; these factors together helped make children’s rights a mainstream issue.70
In 1934 Nobel Laureates Alva and Gunnar Myrdal published the highly influential Crisis in the Population Question. While they were concerned with the effects of population decline, their recommendations which aimed to increase the fertility rate included a housing subsidy programme for families, free prenatal care, and maternity benefits for most new mothers, which were implemented before the Second World War.71 These social changes made it easier to meet children’s needs, and there was a growing willingness and ability to meet these needs. This was manifested in actions undertaken relating to (using Durrant’s categorization) 1) The right to an environment free of violence, 2) The right to a safe environment, and 3) The right to government accountability.
- Swedes imposed significant limits on the violence which could enter into a child’s life. ‘Commercial violence’, for instance was highly regulated. One example of this is the self-imposed ban by toy retailers in 1979 regarding the sale and marketing of violent toys. Likewise, and around the same time, the Play Environment Council and Consumer Ombudsman agreed to ban the sale of products with ‘military/martial associations’.72 Many other similar agreements were later signed. The corporal punishment ban should be interpreted as one of many measures aimed at ensuring this particular right of the child.73
- Swedes viewed the right of children to physical integrity as more than just protection from physical assault. As such, there was a concerted effort by government agencies to minimise accidents in public and private places. Another motivation to minimise accidents in private places such as the home was that it reduced the need parents feel to inflict corporal punishment upon their children.74
- The appointment of an official Swedish Ombudsman for Children (1993) reflected the recognition that government has to play a role in safeguarding the interests of children.75
Also, Swedes had a collectivist approach to social policy. Since the 1930s they had considered that the family and state should work in partnership to ensure the well-being of all family members.76 Ensuring that the interests of children were accounted for was considered a collective responsibility. Many policies implemented before and after the ban reflected this, including free health and dental care for children (1955),77 substantial paid parental leave (which was first introduced in the 1940s and broadened to cover fathers in the 1970s),78, 79 legal entitlement to day care for children between one and six years old (1995),80 and free parental education programmes.81 Furthermore, the generous parental leave was indicative of Sweden’s general parent friendliness. This was also significant as it showed that “corporal punishment was not about pitting children’s rights against parents’ rights”.82 The corporal punishment ban was one element which emerged from this broader socio-political environment which increasingly took into consideration the interests of children.
The emergence of a strong children’s rights movement was also important in encouraging changes in public opinion, and the organizations Swedish Save the Children and Children’s Rights
in Society were particularly influential.83 The tactics of activist organizations will be discussed later on, focussing on such activity in New Zealand.
How did this broader environment arise? Perhaps a better question is to ask how the broader environment arose in Nordic countries more generally, because the four of the first six countries to outlaw corporal punishment were – not coincidentally – from the region. Finland in 1983 (2nd), Norway in 1987 (3rd) and Denmark in 1997 (6th). For a region of only five countries, this is astounding (Iceland followed later in 2003 as the 11th country to abolish corporal punishment).84 The Economist writes that:
Nordic government arose from a combination of difficult geography and benign history. All the Nordic countries have small populations, which means that members of the ruling elites have to get on with each other. Their monarchs lived in relatively modest places and their barons had to strike bargains with independent-minded peasants and seafarers.85
These serendipitous circumstances led the region to embrace liberalism early by global standards; by 1766 Sweden had guaranteed freedom of the press, by 1840 had stopped privileging aristocrats and created a meritocratic civil service. The power of the church was reduced thanks to the widespread adoption of Protestantism.86 The result of such a heritage is high levels of trust in others and a belief in individual rights. The World Values Survey from 1981-1984 asked residents of 10 countries if “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?”. Two Nordic countries, Finland and Sweden, were among the countries surveyed and they displayed the highest levels of trust. 56% of Fins and 52.5% of Swedes answered that “Most people can be trusted” while Australia came in third, with only 46.3% respondents giving the same answer.87 The Nordics are also the “world’s biggest believers in individual autonomy”.88
High levels of trust in others explain the collectivist approach to social policy in Sweden; likewise, the concern for individual autonomy—the interests of individuals, in this case children—was present in the broader environment in which the 1979 corporal punishment ban emerged. “They regard the state’s main job as promoting individual autonomy and social mobility”.89
Another question arises: if Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland share a broadly similar model of big government and individualism, why was Sweden the first country to ban corporal punishment 4 years before Finland followed suit? This is a difficult question, and it is quite possible that Sweden simply held certain necessary beliefs more strongly than its Nordic neighbors. It is also quite possible that luck played an important role—more precisely, that Sweden happened to host a particularly bad case of child abuse that propelled the corporal punishment issue into the limelight. Recall that the acquittal of the abusive father in 1977 prompted a public uproar, which led to the creation of the Commission on Children’s Rights. Economist Cass Sunstein and jurist Timur Kuran have proposed a mechanism to explain this kind of happening: an availability cascade, which is
a self-reinforcing process of collective belief formation by which an expressed perception triggers a chain reaction that gives the perception increasing plausibility through its rising availability in public discourse.90
Here they make reference to what psychologists call an availability heuristic, which refers to the fact that probability assessments we make are often based on how easy it is to think of relevant occurrences of an event.91 The availability cascade is a broader notion of this heuristic, which also takes into account the effect of emotional charge on probability assessments.92
The availability cascade explains how media coverage of even a relatively insignificant event can culminate in large scale government action. A media story about a risk (here, the risk of child abuse) arouses the worry and concern of a niche group. The emotional reaction of this group is covered by the media, which also constitutes additional media coverage of the initial event. Thanks to the availability heuristic, child abuse is then judged to be more common, which prompts additional concern and involvement in the cause. Attention-seeking media headlines exaggerate the danger, which intensifies the emotional charge of thoughts relating to child abuse, which is thus deemed even more common. Availability entrepreneurs–individuals or organizations who try keep the issue in the limelight (in this case Swedish Save the Children and Children’s Rights in Society)—speed up this process. The democratic process ensures that the issue becomes political as it is on everyone’s mind, and brings children’s rights to the forefront of governmental priorities.93 However, specific information and empirical evidence regarding the Swedish event was hard to find, so this explanation should be treated as speculative.
The factors discussed here are obviously not exhaustive. Staffan Janson points out that:
Economic development and the institution of paid parental leave decreased parents’ stress level. Technological inventions produced safer homes, lessening the need for harsh discipline. Also, since more children attended preschool, it became increasingly difficult for abusive parents to hide their children’s bruises. But most importantly, the continuous growth of a democratic, egalitarian ideal meant that more and more Swedes felt that all people—children too—should enjoy equal protection from violence.94
Differences in relatively minor causal factors like parental leave policies and preschool attendance rates may also help account for the timing differences between the Nordics in banning corporal punishment, while the most important shared “democratic, egalitarian” and autonomy-respecting ideal explains their historical proximity.
Another thing to take into consideration is the specificities of the law itself. As Sharon Owen tells us:
“… One key element that would need to be considered is the length of time the process of law reform takes. For example, Brazil achieved full prohibition in 2014, but drafts of prohibiting legislation had been under discussion for over a decade; in Peru, Congress gave all-party support to complete prohibition in 2007, but prohibiting legislation is yet to reach the statute books (it is hopefully imminent). In some countries, law reform has apparently progressed fairly quickly; in others, particular obstacles are faced unrelated to the issue of corporal punishment. In Slovenia, prohibition was included in a Family Code Bill which was ultimately rejected due to opposition by a conservative group to the provisions on same-sex partnerships. In the Philippines, many bills have been drafted and tabled, sometimes in tandem, but none has yet completed its journey through parliament. Sometimes parliamentary processes have been disrupted by natural disaster. Things like national elections, whether a bill has to go through a referendum, whether the parliament has a one or two house system etc all play a part—as do the strength and organisation of the opposition, political coups and terrorist activities, environmental events, wars etc. (In terms of campaigning/activism, this “big unknown” is why the Global Initiative in all our planning is concerned to emphasise that we must be flexible and opportunistic in our approach, as well as strategic in the longer term.) And there always have to be hard decisions about whether to draft a bill which only addresses prohibition of corporal punishment or whether to include this as part of a more wide ranging bill. There are pros and cons to both: the former is not complicated by other issues but inevitably engages everyone in debate on the issue, the latter can sometimes mean that prohibition almost slips in when the focus is elsewhere but equally it can mean it is held up by other issues—there are successful examples of prohibition being achieved both ways.95
The impact of the Swedish law
We have up to this point investigated important law changes in the children’s rights movement. Law change is undoubtedly essential to the animal movement. However in the interest of optimizing the time and resources of activists, it is important to understand just how effective law changes are in bringing about change in actual behavior. The impact of the Swedish law is evaluated below.
The effect of the law on public opinion
The Children’s Rights Commission which recommended the ban to the Swedish government suggested that it could change long-term public perceptions of violence against children.96
Indeed, public approval of corporal punishment in Sweden has long been in decline. The opinion research institute (SIFO) carried out polls intermittently between 1965 and 1981 to ascertain the level of public support for corporal punishment.97 They asked respondents whether they agreed with the statements that 1) A child has to be given corporal punishment from time to time, and 2) Parents should bring up their children without corporal punishment, with the option of responding with 3) Undecided, do not know.98 The results are displayed below, fitted with linear trend lines:
Note that the two statements are not antonymous. The statement ‘A child has…’ implies a belief in the necessity of corporal punishment, whereas ‘Parents should…’ indicates a belief that the use of disciplinary alternatives is something to be proud of. In principle one could believe that corporal punishment isn’t necessary but that it’s no worse (or better) than the alternatives. However, respondents treated the two questions as if they were opposites as the trends in each case are negatively correlated. Indeed, as legislation prohibiting violence against children was passed in Sweden, the public has become less supportive of corporal punishment. Interestingly, the percentage of people who responded ‘Do not know’ dropped sharply from 12% in 1965 to 4% in 1968 (in 1966 the section of the Parental Code allowing corporal punishment was removed), and again from 6% in 1979 to 3% in 1980 (corporal punishment in all its forms was explicitly banned in 1979). This suggests that the law changes got people who had not previously thought much about the issue to do so, and that they generally
came away with a negative view of corporal punishment. This is speculative, and seems somewhat tenuous as an explanation of the drop between 1965 and 1968 considering that a poll conducted in 1971 found that only 40% of the population were aware that corporal punishment was no longer permitted.99 It’s a more plausible explanation of the decline in “Don’t know” responses, of the 1979 to 1981 decline, though this time period doesn’t fit the pattern of decreasing support for corporal punishment (support through this period is roughly constant); in 1981, 99% of Swedes were aware of the 1979 ban, a level of awareness unrivaled “in any other study on knowledge about law in any other industrialized society”.100
The trends of agreement with statement from the SIFO study ‘A child has to be given corporal punishment from time to time’ can be extended to 1994 if one accepts the statement from a government survey as synonymous: ‘moderate corporal punishment is necessary in some childrearing situations, but if used, it should be thoroughly considered and not an effect of anger’.101 They can be extended to 2009 thanks to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatrics which included a survey asking respondents “Do you believe that in order to bring up (raise, educate) (target child’s name) properly, you need to physically punish him her?”102 A 2007 study also presents the percentage of the population who believe that ‘Rearing a child without mild corporal punishment inconceivable’, without explicitly stating the question asked.103
Jumping from survey to survey, we find that in 1994 approval for corporal punishment had slightly increased to 34%, before decreasing to 18% in 2007 and dropping sharply to 0% in 2009.104 The trendlines indicate that the decline in support for corporal punishment slowed from 1981 onwards. However this could be due to inaccurate survey data. For instance, the 1994 data point is a conservative estimate; another study found that the percentage supporting corporal punishment in 1994 was 11%, highlighting the highly uncertain nature of these surveys.105
Other surveys also indicate a growing disapproval of corporal punishment. A 2011 study found that in 1994 “92% of parents thought it was wrong to beat or slap a child”106 , a 2009-2010 survey of 12-16 year olds found that 84% disagreed with the statement that “parents have a right to use mild forms of corporal punishment on their children (e.g. smacking)”, and 93.6% agreed “children must be protected from all forms of violence”.107
What should we make of these data? Durrant wrote that “the corporal punishment ban and ongoing public education campaigns appear to have been extremely effective in altering the social climate with regard to corporal punishment.”108 Is she right to claim that the decline in support for corporal punishment a consequence of the criminalization of the practice?
If so, what might the social mechanisms behind this link be? Criminologist Detlev Frehsee evokes the role that laws play in shaping social norms. The sanction the law imposes defines the norm, which “becomes omnipresent as a binding value and can be accessed at any time. Its decisive contribution is to provide an orientation for all related interactions”.109 For such a value to become omnipresent and binding, it must be widely known.110 This norm translates into change by procuring a means of communication for the persons involved, in this case the child or those concerned for the child. Their position is legitimized by the authority of the legislation.111 The conflict has also changed nature; it is no longer a private matter concerning the family, but is “transferred into the legal system that provides an external reference structure”.112 In turn, parents realise their acts are no longer considered legitimate and children know that being spanked is not something they have to put up with. Parents who had second thoughts about their behavior can no longer rationalise it by reminding themselves that there is no legal ban. As a result, positive opinions of corporal punishment are expected to drop.
Perhaps increased parental awareness of the view of the scientific community that corporal punishment is ineffective and harmful is the explanation. Not only was the ban almost unanimously known, but parents were sent a 16 page pamphlet which explained the reasons for introducing the law as well as alternatives available to corporal punishment and information regarding the law was printed on milk cartons for two months.113 This could explain the downward trend in belief in the necessity of corporal punishment and the growing view that childrearing without corporal punishment is positive.
Sociologist Kai-D Bussman thinks that the fact that the law arose in an environment of changing values is important. He writes that “A slap is a symbolic action demeaning another person, and precisely such intentions have less legitimacy in the observed changes in the system of values”.114 Furthermore, as the laws banning corporal punishment in schools show, violence is increasingly being deemed inappropriate in an educational environment and therefore “This development is heading…in the direction of nonviolent and discourse-oriented conflict-solving patterns.”115 In a later study (and not exclusively discussing Sweden), Bussman emphasizes the role that the spread of information has in changing opinion: “Continuous campaigns and information measures to promote nonviolent childrearing…could give this trend even more impetus. The numerous communication options in the mass media could be used to spread information on the existing laws”.116 This implies that widespread knowledge of a law can be considered widespread knowledge of a social ‘value’ norm, and that the perceived existence of such a norm by
non-conformers will likely change their attitudes.117 This is because law is “a communicative resource with a highly symbolic meaning”.118 Bussmann cites a survey conducted in Germany concerning the population’s conception of violence; a slap from parents was not often regarded as violence, whereas a slap from teachers usually was. He posits that this is because the law in Germany has legitimated one and not the other.119
The view that the law drove down public esteem for corporal punishment is not unanimous. Jurist Julian Roberts notes that the decline is a long term trend, which began far before 1979 (although the available data only goes back to 1965), and that the decline of previous years was did not speed up following 1979.120 On the contrary, approval for corporal punishment actually went up in the year following the ban. Likewise, if the law is the causal factor in initiating opinion change, one wouldn’t expect to see similar decreases in other countries without equivalent legislation. But we do; in the United States for example, 94% of respondents agreed with the statement that “It is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good hard spanking” in 1968. This number had dropped to 68% by 1994.121 This equates to a decline of 26% of the total population or 27.7% of original supporters that stopped supporting corporal punishment; the equivalent declines in Sweden from 1965 to 1994 is of 19% and 35.8%. The decrease in Sweden of a smaller percentage of the population, but a higher proportion of those who thought corporal punishment was acceptable changed their minds. Similar downward trends have been observed in many countries including New Zealand122 and even Kuwait.123 If we assume the marginal difficulty of changing opinion to be constant, than the law probably had no impact or perhaps even a negative one. However, if we assume some degree of increasing marginal difficulty of changing opinion (target individuals become progressively less receptive to the anti-corporal punishment message), then the opinion change of people who originally supported corporal punishment is more pertinent. For instance, if we assume that each marginal individual’s opinion is twice as hard to change as the previous individual, then change from 0% to 50% of people should be counted as equal to change from 50% to 75%. So, if the marginal difficulty of changing opinion increases, the proportional change is more relevant than the total change, and Sweden’s 35.8% trumps the equivalent 27.7% from the United States. Roberts seems to assume that the marginal difficulty of opinion change is constant. It is unclear which view is correct in the case of corporal punishment views, and it is possible that there is a decreasing marginal difficulty of opinion change; in other words, that it actually gets progressively easier to change opinion as more people become convinced (perhaps due to the pressure to conform to societal norms). Roberts also examines “the issue of attitudes to corporal punishment within the broader context of public attitudes towards other social issues”, and states that “The general finding appears to be that while shifts in public opinion occur, the are almost never in response to legislative reforms”.124
The data available are an insufficient basis upon which to determine definitively the impact of the law/s on opinion change. It seems likely that public approval for corporal punishment would have continued to decline independently of the laws in the broader context of gradually spreading liberal, autonomy-respecting values. However, the law might spur on opinion change by legitimizing the view it represents–it’s a symbol of recognition of a new social norm– so in this respect perhaps opinion change leads to law change, which in turn leads to more opinion change.
The effect of the law on behavior
What was the effect of the law on prevalence of corporal punishment? Some data comes from surveys asking parents retrospectively about their behavior, and there is good reason to doubt self reported punishment claims. Before corporal punishment was made illegal, parents may have had no qualms telling surveyors that they regularly hit their children. After it was made illegal, however, they probably weren’t quite as keen to own up to a crime. Nevertheless, decreasing reported rates of corporal punishment, while probably not being an accurate reflection of these rates, can be considered a victory of sorts because it indicates an increasing distaste for such childrearing methods. Such data would therefore reinforce the trends of the previous section.
Various surveys can be put together to get an idea of the general trend of corporal punishment rates. A longitudinal study of a cohort of families which began in 1954 recorded mothers’ reported use of corporal punishment, and in the 1950s 54% of mothers had beaten their children, with a third doing it at least once per day.125 In 1980, survey data was collected which asked a representative sample of Swedish parents to report their use of corporal punishment. 28% of respondents had used some form of violence against their children in the past year.126 It was the first study to use a large and nationally representative sample.127 The next of these nationally representative surveys was carried out using the same methodology in the year 2000.128 In 2000 this number fell to 1.1%, before rising to around 3% in 2006 and remaining there till 2011. Staffan Janson who ran the studies speculates that the slight increase from 2000 may be because “the study in 2000 was performed using interviews and that the studies in 2006129 and 2011 were performed using non-identifiable postal questionnaires”.130
These data are impressive. In the 1950’s before the corporal punishment ban, 54% of mothers were willing to own up to having beaten their children; only 3% were in 2011. Even if the data from the smaller 1950’s study are moderately inaccurate due to the small sample, this is a huge decrease. It also indicates that most of the decline is in actual behavior (as opposed to the taboo now associated with admitting to corporal punishment) because when the 2006 and 2011 studies allowed people to remain anonymous, reported rates of corporal punishment only went up very slightly.
The behavior change was probably partly a consequence of the law. Durrant, Rose-Krasner and Broberg conducted a study in which they collected data pertaining to attitudes towards and use of corporal punishment (use rates reported by Swedish mothers). They note that there is a positive relationship between positive attitudes to corporal punishment and frequency of corporal punishment use (correlation coefficient 0.4), and an inverse relationship between negative attitudes towards corporal punishment and frequency of use (correlation coefficient -0.42).131 If, as Janson’s study seemed to imply, the reported rates of corporal punishment use are fairly accurate, then the attitude change resulting from the creation of the law (if we grant the law’s social-norm legitimization that much) can account for some of the behavior change.
The sanctions associated with infringing the law are also important. Two types of measures are possible: SoL (Socialtjänstlagen: Social Securities Act) measures and LVU (Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga- roughly translates to: The teams with the care of the young) measures. SoL measures are voluntary and consist of either assigning a contact person to help, or placing the child in out of home care. LVU measures are the same but compulsory.132 Either of these measures can be implemented. Following the implementation of the law there has been an increase in the use of voluntary measures and a decrease in compulsory ones,133 indicating that the SoL measures seem to have encouraged parents to seek help earlier, in order to avoid the possibility of more severe interventions later on (e.g. the fear of losing custody of the child for a long period of time). The use of voluntary measures mean that parents have acted before the authorities had to, so earlier identification of problematic households occurs, and earlier identification allows the problems to be dealt with sooner.
Furthermore, the children that would have remained in abusive homes are now compulsorily removed if necessary; before, they would have remained victims of corporal punishment.
The law probably didn’t affect severe forms of violence. The study that surveyed Swede parents in 1980 also differentiated between different forms of violence and recorded equivalent responses from US parents. Rates of severe violence (biting, kicking, punching with fist, beating etc) did not differ between the two countries, despite corporal punishment in general being over two times more common in the US. This could be because these types of behavior are probably due to individual cases of psychological illness, as the rates of these behaviors were very low in both countries, which suggests that they are statistical outliers. Such behaviors probably won’t be impacted by the mechanisms discussed above.134
The impact of precedent-setting
The space of time within which corporal punishment prohibition occurred in many countries around the globe is extremely short, as is often the case with rights revolutions. After no such ban in the entirety of human history, the number of states with a full prohibition on corporal punishment grew steadily from 1 in 1979 to 8 in 1999, before beginning a sharp incline from then onwards, climbing to 46 states as of August 2015.135 Discerning the effect of Sweden’s precedent is difficult because we don’t know the counterfactual, but nevertheless there are multiple reasons for thinking that the Swedish precedent was influential.
For one, Sweden’s prohibition confirmed the possibility of an exception-free ban on corporal punishment, encouraging foreign governments and activists. It showed that the fears of opponents of the ban did not materialise; there has not been widespread jailing of parents, families have not been torn apart, crime rates have not increased, and so on.136 This likely spurred the neighbouring Nordic countries to follow suit.
The influence was probably also in part due to cooperation between Swedish and foreign organisations. For example, Save the Children Sweden has long collaborated with the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, improving the Global Initiative’s effectiveness. Likewise, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency has long been one of the funders of the Global Initiative.137
The Swedish Government has also been an important change agent, for instance by actively taking part in the Universal Periodic Reviews of many states, questioning and encouraging governments regarding their progress towards banning corporal punishment.138 Sweden is also openly proud about its prohibition achievement. In its most recent report to the Universal Periodic Review, Sweden stated that it had worked proactively to abolish corporal punishment and that it now “planned to create a national knowledge centre of violence against children to coordinate and compile knowledge and to support actors in their work against corporal punishment”.139 It seems that in creating internal change, Sweden became one of the anti-corporal punishment movement’s leading proponents.
Sweden’s influence also probably grew over time. As Sharon Owen tells us:
Sweden’s influence has become stronger over the years due to the research that the passage of time has meant can be carried out. This means that when those who resist law reform – or who want it but worry about the consequences – think that it means children won’t be disciplined and higher crime rates will result, or that parents will go to jail and families will be broken up, or that it would be too costly, we can point to Sweden to show that when implemented well it needn’t mean any of these things.140
The effect is amplified as more countries ban corporal punishment successfully, so the effect is a snowballing one. This can explain the exponential growth in states banning corporal punishment.
While the Swedish example seems to have been useful in many countries, it may not be useful to all corporal punishment prohibition movements. Clearly, the usefulness of the Swedish example will vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on things like how Sweden is viewed in the country in which prohibition is considered. In some cases the impact could actually be negative; an example of this is countries which openly resist “European influence”, and so in this case proponents should try avoid Swedish associations.141
An investigation of activist activity in children’s rights—New Zealand
Corporal punishment in all settings is illegal in New Zealand. This was achieved when the Crimes Amendment Act of 2007 banned the use of violence in correcting children’s behavior.142 Activist activity in New Zealand has been particularly well documented and
occurred in a post-internet age, making it useful to activists today.
The internationally renowned New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield wrote an implicit criticism of corporal punishment in her 1921 story Sixpence. In the story she movingly captures the distress and regret of a father who administered physical punishment:
…at the sight of that little face Edward turned, and, not knowing what he was doing, he bolted from the room, down the stairs, and out onto the garden. Good God! What had he done?…He felt awkward, and his heart was wrung.143
The story did not have any immediate observable consequences and New Zealand had to wait over half a century for formal anti-corporal punishment advocacy to begin. Psychologists Jane and James Ritchie were among the earliest advocates for a corporal punishment ban.144 They presented a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing in 1978, and argued (based on their research) that the committee should recommend banning corporal punishment. The committee did not follow their recommendations.145 In total, the Ritchies campaigned for over 30 years, lobbying politicians, publishing articles and books and speaking at conferences in an attempt to get corporal punishment banned. They were not successful, but influenced the thinking of future advocates.146 Another early advocate was Robert Ludbrook, a children’s lawyer who founded YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki, campaigning for many children’s rights including the right to a childhood free from violence.147
Organised child advocacy began in New Zealand in the 1980’s. The 1979 International Year of the Child partly inspired the creation of this movement, which was sustained by the New Zealand Committee for Children (established in 1980). The Committee was a proponent of the corporal punishment ban and encouraged the creation of the role of Commissioner for Children.148
The growth of this movement enabled certain advocates to become particularly influential.149 The continuity of influential advocacy from the 1990’s until the passing of the Bill in 2007 was essential.
Commissions (independent government-funded bodies)
The Office of the Commissioner for Children was influential.The Commissioner for Children (established in 1989) has multiple functions including advancing children’s welfare. Since the first Commissioner started condemning corporal punishment in 1992, the three subsequent commissioners reiterated this view, promoting non-violent childrearing as an effective alternative. They advocated through many forms of media (radio, television, newspaper and magazine articles) and lobbied politicians, assisted by the legal mandate associated with New Zealand’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.150 Despite regular criticism from the public, press and members of parliament along with subtle pressu
re from the government not to criticise their policies too vigorously, the commissioners were resolute in their message. Their “independent statutory voice” constituted important pressure against the legality of corporal punishment.151
Leading non-governmental organizations:
End Physical Punishment of Children (EPOCH) New Zealand was an organization founded in 1997 and was inspired by EPOCH worldwide (which was later renamed the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment), and aimed to abolish corporal punishment while advocating “positive non-violent child discipline.”152
Activities central to EPOCH were lobbying politicians (in person, by letter and by email), writing journal and newspaper articles, presenting at conferences and meetings (at both the national and local level), publishing a newsletter and setting up a website with information about the campaign against corporal punishment.153 Perhaps EPOCH’s most effective activity was persuading other NGO’s to support corporal punishment repeal. Save the Children published a book entitled Unreasonable Force: New Zealand’s Journey towards banning the physical punishment of children which is about NZ’s corporal punishment ban, and writes that EPOCH attained this widespread support by:
establishing an informal network of supportive organisations, recruited through personal contact, letters, telephone calls and, later, email. These organisations had no formal link with EPOCH, nor were they required to pay a membership fee or subscription. Network members were kept informed of developments through regular newsletters, bulletins and newsflashes.154
140 diverse organisations were part of this “informal network”, a significant number considering the population size of New Zealand. When the ban was being actively discussed in parliament, it became very difficult for opponents to dismiss the collective judgement of so many credible organisations. While this network was challenging to maintain, it changed the nature of the debate and undoubtedly helped the bill pass.155
Save the Children New Zealand is the New Zealand branch of the international children’s rights organization Save the Children. As opposed to EPOCH, Save the Children NZ has a nationwide membership. The Corporal Punishment ban was first brought up in their national conference in 2003, before holding regional meetings on the topic with its members.156 The Governor General of New Zealand spoke at the conference challenging the use of corporal punishment; this speech persuaded members of Save the Children to support the ban and led to much public interest in the issue.157, 158 2 years after the conference, Save the Children commissioned an independent researcher to research the views of children on corporal punishment, which found that children believed that parental violence was often not a correction tool but instead motivated by anger.This brought the important truth back to the fore of public debate, after it had been somewhat obscured by righteous parental claims.159
UNICEF New Zealand is the New Zealand branch of the international children’s rights organization UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), which is a United Nations program. In 2004, UNICEF published Protect and Treasure New Zealand’s Children. This publication was endorsed by 24 well-reputed children’s organizations and was created to raise awareness for the need for a corporal punishment ban.160, 161 In 2006, UNICEF and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner funded the publication of Children are Unbeatable: 7 very good reasons not to hit children, a book and CD which argued against the use of corporal punishment. Rhonda Pritchard was one of the authors. She had long been an advocate and her argument was multifaceted and touched on children’s rights, physical and emotional harm, and the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment, among others things. Children are Unbeatable was designed as a resource for both children’s organisations and parents.162 As mentioned, the Families Commision eventually also helped fund the report.
Advocates from ethnic and religious communities
The Pasifika community were generally resistant to the corporal punishment ban, believing that corporal punishment was necessary and important. It was important for activists to overcome this barrier to reform because in 2006 Pacific people constituted a substantial proportion (6.42%) of New Zealand’s population.163 As “Pacific peoples have strong ties to their churches and may hold a deep belief in the importance of physical punishment”164 Reverend Nove Vailaau,“a significant Christian voice within the Samoan community” was an important advocate in this context. He came out in favour of the corporal punishment ban, justifying his opinion using material from the bible.165 Also influential was Fa’amatuani Tino Pereira who had been a broadcaster and was a community leader in Wellington while the ban proposal was circulating. He actively campaigned against corporal punishment, for instance by writing in 2004 that “There is nothing in our pre-missionary history to suggest any evidence of physical punishment as a way of raising children” referring to pre-colonial Samoa. He encouraged church leaders to support the ban.166 The New Zealand Herald columnist Tapu Misa was also a prominent Pacific media voice advocating for the ban.167
The Maori community in general only supported the ban late in the campaign, probably because they worried that it represented an opportunity for discriminatory prosecution.168 One group of iwi (which translates more or less to tribe) showed their support of the ban through a parliamentary submission and powerful press statement to accompany it, writing that “We want to dispel the myth that violence against children is normal or traditionally mandated, and work towards removing opportunities for violence to take place.”169 Maori Anglican church bishops declared their support for the ban just before it became clear that it would become law.170
Anglican Bishops passed a statement to the Prime Minister supporting the passage of the Bill, which was influential in reducing religious opposition.171
A failed repeal of the law
Deborah Morris-Travers, a former Member of the New Zealand Parliament, worked for Every Child Counts and was “closely involved in the campaign from 2004-2007”. She says that “after getting the law changed in 2007 there was a referendum to try and force the Govt to repeal the Act. The referendum was highly skewed and confusing for many”. Advocates countered the efforts of proponents of repeal: “we ran a collective campaign to ensure the retention of the law”. This campaign was supported by advocacy groups including EPOCH New Zealand, Save the Children New Zealand and UNICEF New Zealand. The campaign’s website kept supporters up to date, advised supporters on how to ‘take action’ and contained resources such as this media kit which was written by Morris-Travers.172
Likewise, the law itself provided for regular review of its implementation, which proved extremely useful in blocking repeal efforts by certain groups by showing the law was being implemented appropriately.173 The New Zealand Police conducted these reviews.174
What worked well?
- The credible support network of EPOCH NZ made it hard to dismiss the arguments of key proponents. When challenges arose in debates, activists were able to quickly feed key supporters of law reform in parliament and other high level bodies with necessary and credible information to counter opposition. This information was hard for opponents to dismiss because of its broad support base.
- The use of credible research regarding the effects of corporal punishment made all advocates appear more credible and avoided polarizing the issue. The online resources made available by international groups such as the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment and domestic research provided crucial ammunition to advocates in New Zealand.175 New Zealand academics also spoke out in favour of the ban,176, 177 making it seem more legitimate.
Thanks to the availability of quality research, parliamentary submissions were highly credible. The authors of Unreasonable Force comment on the submissions in general:
The submissions that the authors have seen were well researched and carefully referenced as well as being clearly written and logically argued. The arguments put forward in these submissions were often based on children’s rights research findings on the negative outcomes of physical discipline for children. The review of international research into the disciplining of children conducted by the Children’s Issues Centre at the University of Otago in 2004 proved a valuable source of information for many submissions.178
Sharon Owen reiterates the importance of academic arguments, and notes that “they are without a doubt most useful when they are firmly based on the human rights of children to respect for physical and mental integrity and to a life free from violence etc.”179
This dispassionate method of persuasion also avoided polarizing the public debate further than fear-mongering opponents had already done.When making media appearances, advocates argued for reform using academic research to justify their points. The authors of Unreasonable Force believe that:
On reflection, adopting this policy was a critical decision- it avoided provoking needless criticism by the media; it was consistent with the image that respective organisations wished to project; and it encouraged the media to treat the issues more thoughtfully.180
- Utilising all media opportunities meant that the pro-prohibition arguments easily came to mind. Advocates expressed convincing arguments for the ban whenever opportunity arose,181 which probably influenced politicians’ and the public’s opinions due to the availability heuristic;182 hearing these arguments often likely led them to believe they reflected the opinions of more members of the public than they actually did. Advocates ensured that celebrity supporters made media appearances when appropriate.183 The group Every Child Counts published a media guide to help other advocates.184
This availability argument also implies that generally speaking, it’s best not to give much air to opponents’ arguments or name specific opposition groups.
- Influencing politicians was more effective than changing public opinion. As discussed earlier in the case of Sweden, it appears that the law may play some role in legitimising an opinion (as a form of social pressure). This suggests that it was a good idea for NZ activists to fight to get the law passed, because even though the majority of the public did not agree with it at the time, the democratic process was not going to be responsive enough to repeal it before public opinion changed in the law’s favour.In any case, the law was not repealed in New Zealand, although not through lack of effort from its opponents. Importantly, change appears to have stuck. In a recent Op Ed, New Zealand’s first Children’s Commissioner Ian Hassal writes:
In a Families Commission survey in 2009 only 9 percent of caregivers found smacking was an effective form of discipline…There may not be sufficient data points from these surveys to call the 35 year change in results a trend although another piece of information would support that conclusion and that is, surveys have repeatedly found younger parents to be less likely to be in favour of physical punishment than older ones…. I would say that since the 2007 law change, fewer children have experienced the pain and sense of betrayal that are a consequence of being hit by a parent. There may be a growing sense of respect for children and their right to be free from physical assault and the threat of assault.185
Note that in the face of overwhelming public disapproval, this tactic probably wouldn’t have worked; it was only because those in favour constituted a significant minority.
- Making it easy for prohibition supporters to contact politicians amplified their voice. Advocates encouraged individuals who supported the ban to meet with, email or write to politicians and established a website which made it easier to contact politicians. The authors of Unreasonable Force write that “Before this [website] was set up politicians reported that the number of emails opposing the Bill far exceeded the number in favour- this trend was reversed when supporters were provided with an easy way of contacting politicians”.186
- Positive relationships with members of the media allowed advocates to “inform the debate”.Advocates put substantial work into building positive relationships with well-reputed reporters and commentators who supported the ban, briefing these reporters when they knew an important event was coming up.187
- The internet expanded the reach of the campaign. Email allowed information to be easily transmitted, a blog allowed supporters to share their thoughts, and (as mentioned) the function allowing rapid emails to be sent made politicians more aware of the degree of support for the ban.188
- Advocates made the most of relevant controversies. The acquittal of a woman who had badly beaten her son played an important role in shifting public attitudes.189, 190 Like in Sweden, a case to provoke public outrage was a significant propellent for change.
What didn’t work well?
- Advocates were less successful at shifting public opinion—Language matters. One aspect of this that activist did not manage well was presenting the reform in a palatable manner. Journalists searching for attention-grabbing headlines may have been influenced (inadvertently or otherwise) by opponents of the bill who spread the idea that banning corporal punishment would criminalise responsible parents.With this perspective dominating media coverage the bill soon became known as the ‘anti-smacking bill’, even though public concern in banning corporal punishment had largely been provoked as a response to cases where parents were acquitted after having assaulted their children- the forms of violence being more severe than smacking. If activists had defined the parameters of the debate from the outset , for instance by attempting to spread the notion of an ‘anti-child assault bill’, this may have changed the nature of the debate.191The NZ Herald columnist Tapu Misa wrote after the implementation of that ban that:
Language matters, it seems. How much smoother the passage of Sue Bradford’s bill might have been if those opposed to it hadn’t got in first and framed it as an ‘anti-smacking bill’ which would usurp the rights of parents to lovingly discipline their children, rather than a long overdue attempt to stop abusive people hiding behind the law when they seriously hurt their children.192
For further social context and information, refer to Unreasonable force.
What can animal activists learn?
The successes and failures of the New Zealand anti-corporal punishment movement should serve as lessons to animal advocates. It’s an example of advocacy on behalf of a disregarded group of persons, in which members of that group have not been the leading proponents. However, many proponents had previously been hit as children and so could speak of what it felt like in the first person. In New Zealand’s case this does not appear to have been an influential form of advocacy, but it’s important to recognise this difference may have implications for advocacy techniques.
The analysis above is not enough to determine with precision how many resources should be devoted to creating law changes. However, we have seen that laws criminalising violence towards a particular group of persons do appear to illigitimize the form of violence by means of communicating the new non-violent social norm. Law change should not a priori be prioritised over other methods of communicating a (legitimate) social norm. Law change will probably eventually result from such an opinion change anyway. However, laws can also play another role. The non-punitive nature of the Swedish law with its two distinct types of measures was critical in reducing rates of corporal punishment. While the sanctions associated with animal rights laws should differ, this indicates that it is important to consider the law not only as a socially sanctioned rejection of a form of violence, but as a construct representing social and economic incentives to which individuals wi
ll respond. In other words, different sanctions will be suitable in different circumstances, and this matters. It’s possible that the sanction associated with the law may be significantly more important than its norm communication component in some cases–take economic sanctions for meat producers as an example–and vice versa in other cases.
Social norms regarding corporal punishment worldwide changed remarkably quickly following the law change in Sweden, and as discussed previously, this is probably not a coincidence. This suggests that some animal activists should spend most of their energies attempting to pass important animal rights legislation in countries/states/cities which are particularly open to it. Obviously, this positive international influence hinges on the law being deemed successful. Likewise, we saw in New Zealand that the corporal punishment ban became law in the face of a majority public opposition, but that opinions changed before the law could be reversed. Animal activists should therefore seek to make the most of the particularities of various political systems while trying to pass legislation which only a minority support.
The Swedish and New Zealand corporal punishment bans were spurred along by individual cases of extreme failing of current laws. We have seen that psychological mechanisms indicate that these events were probably highly influential, and animal activists should be sure to make the most of cases of animal mistreatment which surface. Caution seems appropriate here; most people are against extreme violence, so the debate could turn into a discussion about where to draw the line. Activists should be prepared with appropriate arguments to deal with this possibility.
Rates of corporal punishment were also reduced indirectly. Recall the “concerted effort by [Swedish] government agencies to minimise accidents in public places” and the “technology that produced safer homes”, both of which reduced the perceived need of parents to inflict corporal punishment on their children? Animal advocates should seek to find indirect ways of helping animals (ie without addressing the inappropriate exclusion of non-humans persons from moral agency status) while more fundamental changes have yet to occur.
Making it convenient to show support corporal punishment in New Zealand had a big effect. Recall that the website allowing supporters to contact politicians easily dramatically increased the number of people who did so. Convenience seems to play a big role in the moral decision making of individuals. Animal advocates should keep in mind the importance of making animal friendly behavior easy (by making meat substitutes more easily available, for example).
Spreading empathy is also important in priming the social environment. Katherine Mansfield did so by stirringly confronting her readers with the harsh realities of corporal punishment. The novelist George Elliot in 1856 wrote that:
Appeals founded on generalizations and statistics require a sympathy ready-made, a moral sentiment already in activity; but a picture of human life such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves, which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment. When Scott takes us into Luckie Mucklebackit’s cottage, or tells the story of “The Two Drover,” — when Wordsworth sings to us the reverie of “Poor Susan,” — when Kingsley shows us Alton Locke gazing yearningly over the gate which leads from the highway into the first wood he ever saw, — when Hornung paints a group of chimney-sweepers, — more is done towards linking the higher classes with the lower, towards obliterating the vulgarity of exclusiveness, than by hundreds of sermons and philosophical dissertations. Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.193
The children’s rights movement faced new challenges as the proponents of the movement could only speak of first-person struggles in the past tense, but the species gap leaves animal activists with an even harder job in spreading empathy. Activists should encourage innovation and ingenuity in finding new ways of allowing readers or viewers to step in the shoes (or perhaps paws?) of animals.
Perhaps most importantly, the Swedish corporal punishment ban emerged from a broader social environment (as did the ban in New Zealand), and was one of several measures which aimed to ensure the rights of children were met. This spreading belief that individuals should not be discriminated upon based on age provided a backbone to more specific advocacy efforts for children. In the case of animals, anti-speciesist advocacy should be foundational to the animal movement. While different tactics are appropriate in certain circumstances, they need to be underpinned by the idea that animals have interests which must be respected. This is also the most certain way to ensure that their interests continue to be respected into the far future.
Several avenues of research would nicely complement the research done here.
For researchers with a legal background, exploring the technicalities of important legal cases in the history of children’s rights would be of value. The strong analogies which exist between the children’s and animal liberation movements suggest that there may be legal arguments which could be re-used by the animal movement, along with lessons about what to avoid. A more detailed analysis of the way in which the conflicting interests of children were translated into rights would also shed light on how the animal movement should approach this task. Longer term, understanding the forces leading to the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child can inform advocates’ attempts to create a similar convention for non-human animals. Such research would be of value to groups like the Non-Human Rights Project.
The study of the movement against child labour provides a unique opportunity to explore the institutionalized economic exploitation of children, which is particularly valuable because of the similarities it shares with factory farming. This is probably the most promising avenue for future complementary research. Viviana Zelizer wrote in Pricing the Priceless Child that:
The child labour conflict is a key to understanding the profound transformation in the economic and sentimental value of children in the twentieth century. The price of a useful wage-earning child was directly counterposed to the moral value of an economically useless but emotionally priceless child. In the process, a complex reassessment of children’s economic roles took place.194
It is precisely this sort of ‘complex reassessment’ of animal’s ‘economic roles’ which needs to take place. Understanding the forces (be they social, economic, technological or otherwise) that removed children from their economic role which financially benefited not only factory owners but also parents195 will undoubtedly help anti-factory farm advocates. For instance, consider that the argument between labour reformers and their opponents centered ar
ound “conflicting and often ambiguous cultural definitions of what constituted acceptable work for children” and that in our English example progress occurred gradually through the series of factory acts. This could suggest that a step-by-step approach is better than an abolitionist one, as child labour is essentially illegal or at least tightly regulated (depending on how you define child labour) in England today.196 The specific arguments of proponents and opponents should be considered, as should the implications of legal intricacies of relevant legislation. For example, Zelizer uses ‘Shifts in the legal evaluation of children’ as a ‘measure of the changing relationship between the price and value of children.’197 Studying other forms of commercialization of children’s life could also be insightful, such as the nineteenth century ‘baby farming’.
Also, analysing other developments in the treatment of children in the 20th and 21st centuries could provide insightful contrasts to the case of Sweden and New Zealand.
“While it fully participated in the drafting process, it [the United States] is one of only two nations in that world that has failed to ratify the Convention [on the Rights of the Child]…In fact, the concept of children’s rights has received little attention in the United States. There is no comprehensive legal scheme to define and legislate children’s rights as there is with race and gender. And there has been an extreme reluctance to engage in any discourse about children’s rights as human rights such as have occurred with other vulnerable populations.” Mason, M. (2005). The U.S. and the International Children’s Rights Crusade: Leader or Laggard?, Journal of Social History, 38 (4), 956.
“Children, including babies and very young children, are very well able to express their discontent – the problem is that adults too often don’t recognise these ways, or they actively discount them.” Sharon Owen. Personal Communication. (August 4, 2015).
“Sometime in late 1873, the severely battered and neglected child attracted the attention of her neighbours. They complained to the Department of Public Charities and Correction, which administered the city’s almshouse, workhouse, insane asylums, orphanages, jails and public hospitals.” Markel, H. (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children. The New York Times.
Frustrated by the lack of child-protection laws, Wheeler approached the A.S.P.C.A.” Markel, H. (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children. The New York Times.
Markel, H (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children. The New York Times.
“[…]The 1874 case of Mary Ellen McCormack[…]” Markel, H. (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children. The New York Times.
“In a lifesaving act of kindness, Etta Wheeler, her mother and her sister volunteered to raise Mary Ellen in bucolic North Chili, N.Y., outside Rochester.” Markel, H. (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children. The New York Times.
Mary Ellen’s case led Bergh, Gerry and the philanthropist John D. Wright to found the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in December 1874. It was believed to be the first child protective agency in the world. Markel, H. (2009, December 14). Case Shined First Light on Abuse of Children . The New York Times.
“Indeed, the restraint against intervening within a parent-child relationship in the face of such apparent love is one of the most important inhibitors’ against decisive response to child abuse and neglect.” Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 162.
“Expressions of love of children, of grief at their loss, and of dismay at their mistreatment can be found in every period of European history and in every culture.” Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes. Allen Lane, 434.
“…most hunter-gatherer bands do minimal physical punishment of young children”. Diamond, J. (2012). The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies, New York, Viking, 194
“Though hunter-gatherers tend to use corporal punishment in moderation, the dominant method of child-rearing in every other society […] Pinker, S. (2011) The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes.Allen Lane,428.
“The hunter-gatherer version of equality…meant that even parents didn’t have the right to order their children around; hence the non-directive childrearing methods.” Gray, P. (2011, May 16). How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways. Psychology Today.
Diamond, J. (2012). The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies, New York, NY: Viking, 194.
“Many societies, and especially those tribes dependent on a hunter/gatherer existence, demanded the culling or abandonment of deformed and unproductive infants, and female babies were often destroyed because of their desire to raise sons who were considered more valuable because of their superior strength.” Milner, L.S. (2000). Hardness of heart/hardness of life: The stain of human infanticide. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 547.
“Seven centuries before the birth of Christ, Ahiqar, the advisor to the king of Assyria, found that severe discipline of children was so important that he initiated the famous aphorism “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Milner, L.S. (2000). Hardness of heart/hardness of life: The stain of human infanticide. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 257.
“The Puritain minister Cotton Mather (Increase’s son) extended the concern for the child’s well-being to the hereafter: ‘Better whipt than Damn’d’” Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes. Allen Lane, 429.
“Severe corporal punishment was common for centuries. One study found that in the second half of the 18th century, 100 percent of American children were beaten with a stick, whip, or other weapon.” Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes. Allen Lane, 429.
deMause, L. (1998). The History of Child Abuse. Journal of Psychohistory, 25 (3).
Heywood, C. “The Enlightenment view of childhood as a time for education, and particularly education for boys, yielded to the notion of childhood as a lost realm that was none the less fundamental to the creation of the adult self. The upshot was a redefinition of the relationship between adults and children: it was now the child who could educate the educator.” Heywood, C. (2001). A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times. Cambridge: Polity Press.
“One paradigm shift came from John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education, which was published in 1693 and quickly went viral. Locke suggested that a child was ‘only as white Paper, or Wax, to be moulded and fashioned as one pleases’- a doctrine also called the tabula rosa (scraped tablet) or blank slate… Several of Locke’s contemporaries and successors turned to metaphor to remind people about the formative years of life…Another gestalt shift came from Rousseau, who replaced the Christian notion of original sin with the romantic notion of original innocence…During the Enlightenment, elite opinion began to incorporate the child-friendly doctrines of the blank slate and original innocence.” Pinker, S. (2011). The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes. Allen Lane, 432-433.
Sharon Owen. Personal Communication. (August 4, 2015). Also see: Caribbean progress report 2012 for a brief account of the colonial roots of corporal punishment in the Caribbean.
Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 24.
Stone, L. (1977). The Family, Sex and Marriage In England 1500-1800. England: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson, 105.
“There is no evidence, for example, of the purchase of mourning- not even an armband -on the death of very small children in the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, nor of parental attendance at the funeral. If the former had been common practice, it would certainly have appeared in many surviving household account books.” Stone, L. (1977). The Family, Sex and Marriage In England 1500-1800. England: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson,105-106.
Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 25.
“The emotional pain of the bereaved father and mother became the dominant subject of a new popular literary genre- consolation literature. Mourners’ manuals instructed parents how to cope with the tragedy of a ‘vacant cradle’…By the mid-1850’s, special coffins were designed for these “small household saints,” with soft linings and a nameplate inside the box.” Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 25-26.
“The domestic grief of all parents for their dead child was gradually defined as a public concern.” Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 27.
“The success of industrial capitalism is assigned primary responsibility for putting children out of work and into schools to satisfy the growing demand for a skilled, educated labour force. Rising real incomes, on the other hand, explains the reduced need for children’s wages.” Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 62.
Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 169.
“There are, however, some broad propositions which might reasonably be advanced as forming the foundation of any child’s (retrospective) claims. General physical, emotional and intellectual care within the social capabilities of his or her immediate caregivers would seem a minimal expectation. We may call this the ‘basic’ interest.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2) 170.
“There is a third type of interest which children may, retrospectively, claim. A child may argue for the freedom to choose his own lifestyle and to enter social relations according to his own inclinations uncontrolled by the authority of the adult world, whether parents or institutions…We may call them the ‘autonomy’ interest.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 171.
“I have elsewhere suggested the formulation that, within certain overriding constraints created by the economic and social structure of society (whose extent must be open to debate), all children should have an equal opportunity to maximize the resources available to them during their childhood (including their own inherent abilities) so as to minimize the degree to which they enter adult life affected by avoidable prejudices incurred during childhood. In short, their capacities are to be developed to their best advantage. We may call this the ‘developmental’ interest.” Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 170.
Pollock, F. Maitland, F. (1898) The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I. (Vol 2). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 250.
Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 163.
“The writ of wardship was an early adaptation of the writ of trespass for the purpose of protecting a father’s or a guardian’s rights if he lost the benefits of a potentially attractive marriage into the family by the ravishment of the ward. Hence it was that the action for abduction was based upon the injury to the father’s proprietary interest, not in the child (for he had none)” Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 164.
“…there were no rules which recognized a child’s interest in receiving support from a parent…The common law, too, failed to create any legal duty that parents support their children.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 164-165.
“On this view, the sustaining of a child may indeed be thought of as a moral duty, but worth protecting only insofar as infractions on its performance may be thought to injure the present or long-term interests of the parent. We shall see that probably until at least the end of the nineteenth century, the protection given to a father’s relationship of guardian to his children was almost certainly conceived of in this way.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 166.
“The criminal law had always protected children, at least in theory, against severely injurious or life-threatening acts perpetrated against them by their parents.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 167.
“In 1833 the Government passed a Factory Act to improve conditions for children working in factories…The basic act was as follows: no child workers under nine years of age; employers must have an age certificate for their child workers; children of 9-13 years to work no more than nine hours a day; children of 13-18 years to work no more than 12 hours a day; children are not to work at night; two hours schooling each day for children; four factory inspectors appointed to enforce the law.” The National Archives, 1833 Factory Act.
Hutchins, B. L., Hariison, A. (1911). A History of Factory Legislation. Westminster: P.S. King and Son.
For instance, the 1878 Factory Act required “Compulsory education for children up to 10 years old.” Bloy, M. (2013). Factory Legislation 1802-1878, A Web of English History.
“A ruling in 1860 by Chief Justice Cockburn stated: “By the law of England, a parent…may for the purpose of correcting what is evil in the child, inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment, always, however with this condition, that it is reasonable and moderate.” Council of Europe. (2005) Eliminating Corporal Punishment: A Human Rights Imperative for Europe’s Children, Council of Europe, 162.
“[The Infant Life Protection Act 1872] provided that paid carers taking in more than one infant under 1 year of age for longer than twenty-four hours had to register with their local authority. Carers had to keep records and report infant deaths in their houses directly to the coroner.” Hendrick, H. (1994). Child Welfare: England 1872-1989. New York, NY: Routledge, 46-47.
“…baby farming cases, received a great deal of publicity and the movement for legislation to prevent the practice, led by concerned doctors, gained momentum. The campaigning activities of the Infant Life Protection Society which they established led to the setting up of the Select Committee on the Protection of Infant Life whose report on baby farming in 1872 resulted in the passing of the first Infant Life Protection Act , all those receiving two or more infants under the age of one ‘for hire or reward’ had to register with the local authority.” Keating, J. (2009). A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45. Palgrave Macmillan, 23.
“It made no mention of any kind of stringent inspection of private homes; it ignored day nurseries; and those who cared for only one child at a time were exempted from registration. Its sponsor, W.T. Charley, a Conservative MP, defended the Act, arguing that together with reform of the bastardly and birth- and death-registration laws it would allow local authorities to protect infant life. In practice, however, few local authorities pursued even their limited powers with any enthusiasm so that by the end of the 1870’s very little had been achieved. ” Hendrick, H. (1994). Child Welfare: England 1872-1989. New York, NY: Routledge, 47.
“It [the Infant Life Protection Act 1872] was neither effective nor enforced”. Keating, J. (2009). A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45. Palgrave Macmillan, 24.
“In 1897 a second Infant Life Protection Act raised the relevant age to 5.” Keating, J. (2009). A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45. Palgrave Macmillan, 24.
“The early legislation controlling the employment of children in factories and mines was conspicuously motivated by a wish to protect the interests of children…We can find a similar willingness to abrogate the parental interest emerging at the same time where a father was claiming possession of his child and the court considered that to hand the child over put him in bodily danger.” Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2) 168.
Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act 1889. Corporal Punishment was not considered ill treatment. Article 14 states that “Nothing in this Act conta
“It is not possible yet to say that the concern was solely with the children’s interests, despite the language. The impetus for this legislation may have equally lain in the concerns for the moral health of the nation expressed in the Christian evangelical movement, or in more straightforward worries about secular order associated with the economic depression of the 1880’s.” Eekelaar J. (1986). The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2), 169.
“Unless he seriously threatened the child’s well-being, the father’s rights were paramount. They were, however, subordinated to the perceived wider interests, not of the child, but of the community. Immorality, profligacy, impiety and radical social views, all of which might undermine the child’s commitment to the dominant social values, were frequently the
bases for denying custody to fathers (and sometimes to mothers). The welfare of children was thus routinely equated with the transmission of conventional social norms; and, of course, one of the most powerful of these norms was that the interests of parents (in practice, of fathers) should be enforced.” Eekelaar J. (1986) The Emergence of Children’s Rights, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 6 (2),168.
Durrant, J. (1996). The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.), Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 19. This quote was edited. The original quote began ‘For 5 years, from 1979-1984…’, but Finland passed it’s prohibition legislation in 1983, which came into force in 1984.
“The very first ban on corporal punishment in schools was enacted in 1918 but only applied to the senior grades of elementary school.” Hindberg, B. (2001) Ending Corporal Punishment: Swedish Experience of Efforts to Prevent All Forms of Violence Against Children- and the Results, Stockholm, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10.
“But by 1928, there was sufficient concern about this situation that the Education Act was amended to forbid corporal punishment in the gymnasiums (secondary schools).” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 19.
“…led to a change in the Parenthood and Guardianship Code (a civil code governing family law) in 1949. In an attempt to reduce severe beatings, the word “punish” was replaced by “reprimand” in the section defining permissible parental behaviour.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter,19-20.
“In 1957, the section permitting parents to use force in reprimanding their children was completely removed from the penal code…The inconsistency of these two sets of laws was eliminated in 1966, when the parental right to use corporal punishment was removed from the Parents’ Code.” Durrant, J. (1996). The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects, Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 20.
“The right of administering corporal punishment to children was deleted from the Children and Parents Code in 1966, with the result that the provisions of the Penal Code on assault became fully applicable to corporal punishment of children as well.” Hindberg, B. (2001). Ending Corporal Punishment: Swedish Experience of Efforts to Prevent All Forms of Violence Against Children- and the Results. Stockholm: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10-11.
“In 1959, an “experiment” was carried out in the welfare schools; the teachers were asked to refrain from using corporal punishment for 1 year, after which they could evaluate the success of this approach. While there was some initial resistance to this idea and some debate in the media, during the course of that year, a change took place in the Headmasters’ beliefs such that they no longer felt that beating was necessary and the media debate diminished considerably. As a result, 1960 witnessed the abolition of corporal punishment in the Statutes for Child Care Institutions and Reformatory Schools.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 20.
“The prohibition was later extended to other types of schools until finally, in 1962, it applied to the entire school system.” Hindberg, B. (2001) Ending Corporal Punishment: Swedish Experience of Efforts to Prevent All Forms of Violence Against Children- and the Results. Stockholm: Ministry of Foreign Affairs,10.
“…in 1975, a 3-year-old girl was badly beaten by her father and was taken to hospital with bruises over her entire body. Despite the girl’s injuries, the court acquitted her father, stating that he had not exceeded his right to chastise his daughter. In 1977, soon after this father was acquitted, a large exhibition on child abuse was held in Stockholm and attended by 60,000 people. A large number of those attending the exhibition signed a petition that called for more stringent laws on the use of physical force against children. That same year, the Minister of Justice appointed a Commission on Children’s Rights to review the Parenthood and Guardianship Code and formulate recommendations for modifying it to improve children’s welfare…The Commission as unanimous in its support for a proposal to include a paragraph in the Parents’ Code that explicitly banned the use of corporal punishment by parents. In 1978, this proposal underwent a “remiss procedure” during which it was submitted to 30 authorities for review and response…In 1979, the proposal was put to a vote in Parliament. There was virtually no opposition; the proposal was supported by all parties and the final vote was 259 in favour and 6 against.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 21.
Corporal Punishment of children in Sweden (2015), 1. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
“The prohibition of corporal punishment in the Children and Parents Code is unaccompanied by any penal sanctions…the purpose of the legislation against corporal punishment is not to punish those who beat their children but, primarily, to mobilise opinion.” Hindberg, B. (2001) Ending Corporal Punishment: Swedish Experience of Efforts to Prevent All Forms of Violence Against Children- and the Results. Stockholm: Ministry of Foreign Affairs,13.
“The law is not directed at a limitation of parental responsibility in the rearing of children but at the formulation of clear behavioural guidelines for the responsible up-bringing of children by their parents” Ziegert, K. (1983). The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Marriage and Family, 45 (4), 917.
“…two major societal components contributed to the passage and success of the ban- a recognition of the rights of children and a collectivist approach to social policy. Together, these factors set the stage for the ban’s proposal, passage and societal acceptance.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4) 456.
“The corporal punishment ban, then, can be seen as one of many ways in which the Swedish government has addressed children’s rights and promoted a view of children as autonomous individuals whose physical and political vulnerabilities warrant particular societal attention.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 451.
Lengborn, T. (1993). Ellen Key. Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education, 23 (¾), 9
“It was only a long time later that her ideas began to be put into effect in Swedish schools.” Lengborn, T. (1993). Ellen Key. Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education, 23 (¾), 9.
“The publication of The Century of the Child, which occurred concomitantly with a low fertility rate, the establishment of Social Democratic Party in 1889, and rapid industrialization and economic growth, had an important influence on the Swedish approach to children’s issues throughout this century. The child was moved gradually from a peripheral to a central position within families and within societies as a whole.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 446.
“…only a handful of the [Myrdal’s] recommendations were enacted before World War II. From the “child” perspective, the most important of these was the creation of free care for women in labour and other childbirth services such as medical checkups and maternity benefits for the great majority of new mothers. Single mothers were also given the right to receive advance child maintenance payments. Another significant step taken at the time was the introduction of state loans for newly married couples and of a housing subsidy programme for families with many children. Employers were no longer permitted to fire women
because of marriage or pregnancy, and Government employees were given the right to leave with sick pay in connection with childbirth.” Olsson, S. Spant, R. (1991). Children in the Welfare State: Current Problems and Prospects in Sweden. Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series, 22, 6.
“One of the primary directions in which such efforts have been directed is towards ‘commercial violence’. In 1979, for example, the Swedish toy retailers agreed to a self-imposed ban on the marketing and sale of violent toys. Following an anti-violence campaign throughout the 1970’s, the Swedish toy retailers, the Consumer Ombudsman, and the Play Environment Council signed an agreement banning the sale of toy weapons and other products with ‘military/martial associations’, particularly those representing wars that have taken place since 1914.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4) 447.
“A range of measures has been imposed to protect children from the experience of violence, minimize the fear and anxiety that results from exposure to violent images, reduce the number of violent models to which they are exposed and promote non-aggressive solutions to problems. The corporal punishment ban was, therefore, one of several measures intended to address the child’s right to an environment free of violence.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 448.
“The right of children to physical integrity is viewed in Sweden as extending beyond the right to protection from physical assault. A strong effort to promote children’s physical safety in their homes and neighbourhoods has emerged throughout the past decades. It has been directed towards prevention of accidents in homes, traffic areas, playgrounds, schools and sports events… one of the primary reasons parents give for using corporal punishment is to teach their children to avoid dangerous situations. The implementation of preventive policies that minimize children’s access to dangerous substances and environments may have reduced parents’ felt need to strike their children.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 448-449.
“On 1 July 1993 Sweden got its first Ombudsman. The issue of a special spokesperson for children and young people had been discussed in Parliament on several occasions since the 1980’s. Several motions emphasized that there was no representative of the child, which under the Act could protect their interests.” The Children’s Ombudsman (Google Translate, Trans.). (2015).
“Since the 1930’s, Swedes have accepted the idea that there should be a partnership between the state and family in meeting the goal of family well-being.” Haas, L. (1996). Family Policy in Sweden. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 17 (1), 51.
“The Swedish health-care system, established in 1955, provides not only universal access to health services, but also provides insurance for loss of income due to illness and heavily subsidizes the cost of prescription drugs (life-saving drugs are provided free of charge)…All children receive free dental care up to the age of 19, so virtually all receive regular treatment and prophylaxis.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997) Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and Public Policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 452.
“Forty years ago Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a gender-neutral paid parental-leave allowance. This involves paying 90% of wages for 180 days per child…the scheme has become more generous, with the number of paid leave days for the first child being bumped from 180 to 480…The policy was expanded in 2002 so that if the mother and father each took at least 2 months’ leave, the family would get two extra months.” S.H. (2014, July 22). Why Swedish Men take so much paternity leave. The Economist.
“Paid maternity leave was established in Sweden in the 1940’s and was extended to cover fathers in the 1970’s.” Durrant, J. Olsen, G. (1997). Parenting and public policy: Contextualizing the Swedish corporal punishment ban, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 19 (4), 452.
“To make it possible for women and men to combine employment and parenting roles, the Swedish government has assumed major responsibility for the buildup and financing of
substitute child care…A series of targets concerning coverage were set…the latest one promises full coverage for children one through six years old by 1995” Haas, L. (1996). Family Policy in Sweden. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 17 (1), 63.
“…at all levels of education, students are educated about responsible parenthood. Baby-care courses include a parent training component, parental classes are accessible to all expectant parents, and support groups for parents of young children are available at community health centers. All such services are provided free of charge.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 24.
“The growth of a strong children’s rights movement, represented by two prominent and influential organizations, Rädda Barnen (Swedish Save the Children) and Barnens Rätt i Samhället (Children’s Rights in Society). These organizations have contributed to a high degree of public recognition of children’s status as persons.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 23.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2015). States which have prohibited all corporal punishment.
The secret of their success: The Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world (2013, January 31). The Economist.
They embraced liberalism early. Sweden guaranteed freedom of the press in 1766, and from the 1840s onwards it abolished preference for aristocrats in handing out top government jobs and created a meritocratic and corruption-free civil service. They also embraced Protestantism—a religion that reduces the church to a helpmate and emphasises the direct relationship between the individual and his God. One of the Lutheran church’s main priorities was teaching peasants to read.” The secret of their success: The Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world (2013, January 31). The Economist.
World Values Survey (1981-1984): Codebook. (1984). 16.
“The World Values Survey, which has been monitoring values in over 100 countries since 1981, says that the Nordics are the world’s biggest believers in individual autonomy.” The secret of their success: The Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world (2013, January 31). The Economist.
The secret of their success: The Nordic countries are probably the best-governed in the world (2013, January 31). The Economist.
Kuran, T. Sunstein, C. (1999). Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation. Stanford Law Review, 51 (4), 683.
There are situations in which people assess the frequency of a class or the probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind…man has at his disposal a procedure (the availability heuristic) for estimating the numerosity of a class, the likelihood of an event, or the frequency of co-occurrences, by the ease with which the relevant mental operations of retrieval, construction, or association can be performed.” Tversky, A. Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185 (4157), 1127-1128.
“…the availability cascade…an expanded notion of the heuristic, in which availability provides a heuristic for judgements other than frequency. In particular, importance of an idea is often judged by the fluency
(and emotional charge) with which that idea comes to mind.” Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin, 142.
“An availability cascade is a self-sustaining chain of events, which may start from media reports of a relatively minor event and lead up to public panic and large-scale government action. On some occasions, a media story about a risk catches the attention of a segment of the public, which becomes aroused and worried. This emotional reaction becomes a story in itself, prompting additional coverage in the media, which in turn produces greater concern and involvement. The cycle is sometimes sped along deliberately by “availability entrepreneurs”, individuals or organizations who work to ensure a continuous flow of worrying news. The danger is increasingly exaggerated as the media compete for attention-grabbing headlines…The issue becomes politically important because it is on everyone’s mind, and the response of the political system is guided by the intensity of public sentiment.” Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London: Penguin, 142.
Janson, S. (2014). Smacking banned since 1979.
“…in the conception of the governmental bill and the subsequent law follow the suggestion of the Children’s Rights Commission that the main effect of the prohibition be geared to bringing about a long-term change of attitude in the population as a whole” Ziegert, K. (1983). The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Marriage and Family, 45 (4), 920.
The Survey data cited in this section should generally be treated as approximative, in part because the sample size tends to be quite small. For instance, “The 1981 sample covered [only] 983 persons of both sexes between the ages 18 and 70 years and is representative for the Swedish population.” Ziegert, K. (1983). The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Marriage and Family, 45 (4), 925.
Ziegert, K. (1983). The Prohibition of Corporal Pun
“The evidence for this notion comes from a poll conducted in 1971, which demonstrated that 60% of the population did not know that corporal punishment was no longer legally defensible.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 21.
“The study of the level of knowledge about the prohibition of corporal punishment for 1981 produced figures that cannot be matched in any other study on knowledge about law in any other industrial society… in 1981 the proportion of those who were unclear about it had been reduced to 1%.” Ziegert, K. (1983). The Prohibition of Corporal Punishment: A Preliminary Report. Journal of Marriage and Family, 45 (4), 922.
It is possible that this is an innappropriate substitution. Often the framing of questions can significantly change the way respondents answer. The same could apply to other survey questions in this section, which is another reason to treat these data as approximative.
“An additional item was asked, “do you believe that in order to bring up (raise, educate) (target child’s name) properly, you need to physically punish him/her?” Mothers and fathers responded yes (coded as 1) or no (coded as 0) for each item” Landsford, J et al. (2010). Corporal Punishment of Children in Nine Countries as a Function of Child Gender and Parent Gender. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2010, 3.
Bussman, K. Erthal, C. Schroth, A. (2009). The Effect of Banning Corporal Punishment in Europe: A Five Nation Comparison. Figure 6, 14.
This number may be particularly low in part because of the ‘identifiable victim’ effect. The survey question included the name of the respondents child’s name, and this probably skewered responses. As Peter Singer puts it in The Life you Can Save, “we will spend far more to rescue an identifiable victim than we will to save a ‘statistical life’…The identifiable person moves us in a way that mere abstract information does not.” Singer, P. (2009). The Life You Can Save. New York: Random House, 47-48.
“In Sweden, the percent supporting CP declined from 53% in 1965 to 42% in 1968, 35% in 1971, 26% in 1981, and 11% in 1994” Straus, M. (2009). Differences in Corporal Punishment in 32 Nations and its Relation to National Differences in IQ, 4.
“A 2011 study which involved 2,500 parents of children aged 0-12 and 3,207 15-16 year olds, and was designed to follow up on similar studies carried out in 1980, 2000 and 2006, found that 92% of parents thought it was wrong to beat or slap a child.” Country report for Sweden. (2015). Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
“A survey of 1,697 students aged 12-16 found that…More than eight in ten (83.3%) disagreed that ‘parents have a right to use mild forms of corporal punishment on their children (e.g. smacking)’.” Country report for Sweden. (2015). Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
Durrant J. (1999). Evaluating the success of sweden’s corporal punishment ban. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23 (5), 444.
Frehsee D. (1996) Violen
ce Toward Children in the Family and the Role of Law. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.), Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 3.
“A prerequisite for the empowerment of the child is that the child actually knows anything at all about what he or she has to put up with.” Frehsee D. (1996) Violence Toward Children in the Family and the Role of Law. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 7.
“…experiences a strengthening of his or her position when he or she is able to appeal to the judgement of the law and its authority…the primary effect of the norm…is that it equips the persons involved in a specific field of conflict with a medium of communication. The beneficiary here, that is, the child or a third person who is willing to provide
support to that child, experiences a strengthening of his or her position when he or she is able to appeal to the judgement of the law and its authority.” Frehsee, D. (1996) Violence Toward Children in the Family and the Role of Law. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 7.
Frehsee D. (1996) Violence Toward Children in the Family and the Role of Law. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 7.
“The ban was well-publicized by the media, but more importantly, a 1-page color pamphlet explaining the the reason for the law and providing alternatives to corporal punishment was given to every household with a yound child. These pamphlets were also distributed through media offices and child care centres and translated into all immigrant languages…Further, for 2 months, information about the law was printed on milk cartons, to ensure that it was present at family mealtimes when parents and children could discuss the issue together.” Durrant, J. (1996) The Swedish Ban on Corporal Punishment: Its History and Effects. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 22.
Bussmann, K. (1996) Changes in Family Sanctioning Styles and the Impact of Abolishing Corporal Punishment. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 40.
“Physical discipline as an effective method of childrearing is, in the meantime, “out”; the educational ideal in our society as well as in the family has quite clearly become one of nonviolence. This development is heading, therefore, slowly but surely in the direction of nonviolent and discourse-oriented conflict-solving patterns.” Bussmand, K. (1996) Changes in Family Sanctioning Styles and the Impact of Abolishing Corporal Punishment. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 40.
“Continuous campaigns and information measures to promote nonviolent childrearing based on the Swedish model could give this trend even more impetus. The numerous communication options in the mass media could be used to spread information on the existing laws—particularly in nations in which a legal reform is new or still only intended.” Bussman, K. Erthal, C. Schroth, A. (2009). The Effect of Banning Corporal Punishment in Europe: A Five Nation Comparison, 21.
Bussmand, K. (1996). Changes in Family Sanctioning Styles and the Impact of Abolishing Corporal Punishment. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 54.
“As the slap from the parents is justified by law, this activity was regarded by most interviewees as not very violent. This changes, if parents do not punish their children for educational but for personal reasons (like being stressed). The different judgement of an ‘unfounded’ and a ‘justified’ slap indicates the importance of a legitimation. This allows the assumption that
the teacher’s slap in the face is only considered a form of violence because it is no longer allowed in Germany. The law obviously supplies one important justification.” Bussmand, K. (1996). Changes in Family Sanctioning Styles and the Impact of Abolishing Corporal Punishment. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 54.
“…this drop is part of a long-term trend… The slope of declining support was in no way accelerated by the passage of the reform law in 1979.” Roberts, J. (2000). Changing Public Attitudes Towards Corporal Punishment: The Effects of Statutory Reform in Sweden. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 (8), 1030.
“The following question was asked in the five General Social Surveys and the 1994 Gallup Survey: Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good hard spanking?…the decrease of 26 percentage points from the high of 94% in 1968 to 68% in 1994 is a remarkable cultural change.” Straus, M. Mathur, A. Social Change and the Trends in Approval of Corporal Punishment by Parents from 1968 to 1994. Frehesse, D. Horn, W. Bussman, K. (Eds.). Family Violence Against Children: A Challenge for Society, Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 96.
“A New Zealand study found a similar trend. The percent who agreed there are “certain circumstances when it is alright for a parent to smack a child” decreased from 90% in 1981 to 58% in 1996 and has stayed about the same since then” Straus, M. (2009). Differences in Corporal Punishment by Parents in 32 Nations and its Relation to Differences in IQ, 4.
“Finally, Qasem, Mustafa, Kazem, and Shah (1998) conducted a cross-sectional survey in Kuwait and found that attitudes towards physical punishment are changing in that country as well.” Roberts, J. (2000). Changing Public Attitudes Towards Corporal Punishment: The Effects of Statutory Reform in Sweden. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 (8), 1033.
Roberts, J. (2000). Changing Public Attitudes Towards Corporal Punishment: The Effects of Statutory Reform in Sweden. Child Abuse & Neglect, 24 (8), 1034.
“In Sweden in the 1950’s 94% of parents spanked, and a third did it at least daily. By 1995 the percent spanking had decreased to 33%.” Straus, M. (2009). Differences in Corporal Punishment by Parents in 32 Nations and its Relation to Differences in IQ, 4.
“The investigation in 1980 was an interview of 1105 families, where the parents responded to questions about their upbringing practices with respect to a specific child during the past year…Since the very substantial decrease of parents beating their children (during the preceding year) from 1980 (28%)…” Janson, S. Jernbro, C. Langberg, B. (2011). Corporal punishment and other humiliating behaviour towards children in Sweden, 2 & 6.
“A number of smaller investigations concerning child abuse have been performed in Sweden since the 1960s, but the first representative national investigation was carried out in 1980, the year after corporal punishment was banned through the Swedish Parental Act of 1979.” Janson, S. Jernbro, C. Langberg, B. (2011). Corporal punishment and other humiliating behaviour towards children in Sweden, 2.
“The 2011 national Swedish studies on corporal punishment and other humiliating behavior towards children are a follow up of earlier studies performed in 1980, 2000 and 2006.” Janson, S. Jernbro, C. Langberg, B. (2011). Corporal punishment and other humiliating behaviour towards children in Sweden, 2.
Graph: Attitudes towards corporal punishment of children and behaviour of Swedish parents 1960-2011. Janson, S. Reducing Child Maltreatment: The Swedish experience, 2.
Janson, S. Jernbro, C. Langberg, B. (2011). Corporal punishment and other humiliating behavior towards children in Sweden, 6.
“Attitudes toward and use of spanking. Within the total sample, mothers’ scores on the positive attitude index were positively associated with their frequency of use of physical punishment, tau-b = .54, p < .0001. This relationship was also found within the Canadian and Swedish samples, tau-b = .59 and .40, respectively, p< .0001 in both cases. Within the total sample, mothers’ scores on the negative attitude index were negatively associated with their frequency of use of physical punishment, tau-b = -.50, p< .0001 . The relationship remained when child age was controlled by means of a partial correlation, r = – .53, p< .0001. The relationship was also found within the Canadian and Swedish samples, tau-b = -.51, and -.42, respectively, p < .0001 in both cases.” Durrant, J. Rose-Krasner, L. Anders G, B. (2003). Physical Punishment and maternal beliefs in Sweden and Canada. Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 34 (4), 597.
“SoL measures are of two types: (1) assignment of a contact person; or (2) placement of the child outside the parental home… (1) short-term out-of-home care, primarily during investigations; (2) long-term or permanent out-of-home care; and (3) assignment of a contact person, a measure available since 1985. These measures are undertaken when the well-being of the child is seriously jeopardized.” Durrant J. (1999) Evaluating the success of sweden’s corporal punishment ban. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23 (5), 443.
“In every year since 1982, the majority of measures have been of a voluntary nature and the difference in the proportions of the two kinds of measures has steadily increased.” Durrant, J. (2000). A Generation Without Smacking: The impact of Sweden’s ba
“Overall, twice as many American parents (63%) reported using violence toward their children as did Swedish parents (30%) during the previous year…There were no significant differences in the rates with which the Swedish and U.S. samples reported that they had thrown things; kicked, bit, or hit their children with fists; pushed, grabbed or shoved their children; beat up their children; or threatened with or used a knife or gun…Law reform, corporal punishment and child abuse: the case of Sweden. “When we examine the most severe forms of violence-beating up, threatening with or using a weapon – we see that the rates are extremely low in both countries, suggesting that these groups are statistical and psychological outliers. The deviance of these groups makes it unlikely that they would be amenable to public education or legal reform strategies” Durrant, J. (2005) Law Reform, Corporal Punishment and Child Abuse: The Case of Sweden. Janson, S. International Review of Victimology, 12, 146-147.
States which have prohibited all corporal punishment. (2015). Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.
“There is no evidence that the abolition of corporal punishment leads to higher crime rates. And parents are not jailed for a single spanking, just as adults are not imprisoned for slapping another adult once.” Fréden, J. (2015). Smacking banned since 1979.
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review- Sweden. (2015). Human Rights Council, 29th session.
“The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 repeals the legal defence for the use of reasonable force “by way of correction” in section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961.” Country report for New Zealand. (2015).
Mansfield, K. (1921). Sixpence.
“There are usually a few individuals and organisations who act as the trailblazers for social reforms, and the abolition of physical punishment in New Zealand was no exception…Anyone researching the abolition of physical punishment in New Zealand will find it impossible to ignore the contributions of the psychologists Jane and James Ritchie.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 108.
“Drawing on their research findings, they wrote a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing on violent offending in 1978. The Ritchies argued that the level of violent offending in society is related to tolerance of violence in that society and that ‘violence breeds violence’. The pair urged the committee to ‘recommend the elimination from statute of any provision that permits, to any person, the right to employ physical punishment in the correction and training of the young’. The committee declined.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 109.
“The Ritchies steadfastly lobbied politicians, wrote books and articles, made presentations at conferences, and campaigned for over 30 years to have section 59 repealed. Jane and James Ritchie influenced the thinking of many other advocates. Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 109.
See Children’s rights to safety and physical integrity: An examination of messages that influence attitudes about physical punishment of children which was presented at the Children’s Issues Centre Conference at Otago University in July 1999 as an example of Ludbrook’s advocacy.
“Quite a number of people had, since the International Year of the Child (IYC) in 1979, demanded the establishment of an office of this kind [Commissioner for Children], among others the National Council of Women, the Committee for Children set up during the IYC, law groups and various women’s representative groups.” Flekkøy, M. (1990). Models for monitoring the protection of children’s rights: meeting report, 18.
“The growth of the children’s movement enabled child advocates expressing similar messages to become influential players.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 111.
“In 1989, the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act established the role of the Commissioner for Children, with a range of functions including the promotion of children’s welfare. In 1992, Dr Ian Hassall, the first Commissioner for Children, began speaking out publically against the use of physical punishment […] The three subsequent Commissioners were all staunch in their opposition to physical punishment and actively supported the repeal of section 59. They widely promoted the use of positive, non-violent discipline as an effective, safe alternative […] The Commissioners advocated ending physical discipline in innumerable public presentations, in newspaper and magazine articles, as well as on television and radio. They lobbied government officials and politicians many times over the years. They were greatly assisted by the legal mandate of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989 by which their office was established and later by the Children’s Commission Act 2003, which now requires them ‘to give better effect in New Zealand to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 112-113.
“Being the advocates with the highest public profile…but the commissioners continued to criticise the failure of successive governments to repeal section 59. An independent statutory voice for children steadfastly advocating the banning of physical punishment added to the pressure for reform” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 113-114.
EPOCH New Zealand is a small charitable trust formed in 1997. It has advocated for law change for over 10 years…EPOCH NZ developed and maintained a network of organisations supportive of positive non-violent child discipline and a repeal of s59 of the Crimes Act 1961.” EPOCH New Zealand
“Members of EPOCH also lobbied politicians in successive governments, in person and through letters, and later by email. EPOCH regularly promoted repeal through presentations at national conferences and local meetings, as well as in journal and newspaper articles. In 1998, it began publishing its own newsletter, which was distributed widely to interested organisations and individuals. A website was set up to provide easy access to information that related to the campaign to repeal section 59.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 114-115.
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 115.
“When repeal became a real possibility with Sue Bradford’s Bill being drawn from the ballot in Parliament, it was possible to demonstrate to politicians that over 140 organisations supported repeal- a significant number in a country the size of New Zealand. […] EPOCH members found that maintaining an email-based network was challenging and involved constant updating of addresses and contacts. However, engaging support from and communicating regularly with other organisations and individuals in this way was undoubtedly an important factor in demonstrating growing support for reform. The strengths of EPOCH lay in its primary focus on law reform and its ability to create and sustain a network of supportive organisations without requiring formal membership.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand.
“Save the Children, which has a nationwide membership, worked hard to secure the support of its membership for repeal by highlighting the issue of physical punishment at its June 2003 national conference and later holding regional meetings with the membership.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 116.
Children’s advocates take heart at anti-smacking speech. (June 6, 2002). New Zealand Herald.
“The Governor General of New Zealand, Dame Sylvia Cartwright, a former judge, gave the opening address [of the 2003 national conference] which focussed on violence towards children and challenged the use of physical discipline by parents…The speech not only inspired many members of Save the Children to support repeal but also provoked a great deal of public discussion and debate.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 116.
“In 2005, Save the Children commissioned and published research by Terry Dobbs, an independent researcher…The research into the views of c
hildren on family discipline, revealed that children believed that a significant motivation for hitting them was parental anger rather than a desire to correct their behaviour…This had already been admitted by New Zealand parents in research done forty years earlier, but in the current debate the reality of parental anger being a prime motivator for smacking was often obscured by adult self-righteousness.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 116-117.
“One example is the Protect and Treasure New Zealand’s Children campaign of 2004, whose primary resource was a pamphlet, endorsed by 24 leading child-focused organisations, that widely distributed throughout New Zealand.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008) Unreasonable force. New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children, 111.
“…in 2004 it coordinated widespread NGO support for a publication entitled Protect and Treasure New Zealand’s Children, which aimed to increase public understanding of the need to repeal section 59.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 117.
“In 2006 UNICEF, along with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (and later the families commission), funded the publication of a booklet and CD developed by Rhonda Pritchard and George Hook called Children are Unbeatable: 7 very good reasons not to hit children. Rhonda, a long-time advocate for repeal, argued a convincing case for parents to desist from hitting their children. Her reasons included mixed messages, children’s rights, emotional distress, physical harm, religious imperatives, as well as the ineffectiveness and superfluousness of physical punishment. The booklet and DC were designed as resources for organisations involved in parent education as well as for parents themselves.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 118.
“New Zealand’s census night population has passed the 4 million mark. There were 4,143,279 people in New Zealand on census night, an increase of 322,530 (8.4 percent) since the 2001 Census….Those identifying with Pacific peoples ethnic groups had the second-largest increase from the 2001 Census, up 14.7 percent to total 265,974.” QuickStats About New Zealand’s Population and Dwellings. (2006). Statistics New Zealand.
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 123.
“The minister of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa in Porirua, The Reverend Nove Vailaau, has been a significant Christian voice within the Samoan community advocating the rejection of physical punishment. He also presented papers at forums on section 59 outlining the biblical basis of his stance.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 124.
“Another significant Pacific advocate for repeal was Fa’amatuainu Tino Pereira, a Wellington-based Samoan community leader and former broadcaster, who consistently stood up for not hitting children. In 2004, Tino wrote ‘There is nothing in our pre-missionary history to suggest any evidence of physical punishment as a way of raising children. Instead we say in Samoa:…(The young of birds are fed on fruits and berries, while the young of human beings are fed on words so they could grow strong and wise). He also called on church leaders to become part of the quest for a solution.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 124.
“Pacific voices in support of repeal were also present in the media, notably that of Tapu Misa, the New Zealand Herald columnist.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 124.
“…it was not until late in the campaign that visible, organised support for repeal emerged from the Māori community…Māori feared that repeal of section 59 would increase their vulnerability because it would provide another reason for unfair Police attention.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 124-125.
“One group of iwi in the north of New Zealand declared themselves fully in support of Sue Bradford’s Bill and made a powerful submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee. In a press statement concerning their submission, it was stated that:…We want to dispel the myth that violence against children is normal or traditionally mandated, and work towards removing opportunities for violence to take place.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 124-125.
“On the day before the surprise accord that assured the Bill would be passed by a huge majority in the House, the Māori Anglican Church bishops came out in support of repeal” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 125-126.
See search results for section 59 review from the New Zealand Police.
“The website of the organisation Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children proved a very valuable source of information. Other international websites, such as Children are Unbeatable, provided access to useful advocacy and parent education material.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 120-121.
“Some of those experts who did speak out publicly in favour of repeal included Professor Anne Smith and Dr Nicola Taylor from the Children’s Issue Centre of the University of Otago in Dunedin, Dr Emma Davies and Dr Ian Hassall who were senior researchers at the Institute for Public Policy at Auckland University of Technology (now AUT University), and Dr Clair Breen from the Law School at the University of Waikato in Hamilton.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 122.
Emma Davies: Smacking Bill in need of more clarity, Davies, E. (2006). New Zealand Herald.
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning t
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand,165.
“Leading advocates were very effective in expanding the support base to include many professional organisations and NGO’s. This resulted in informed and influential pressure from different sources being applied to politicians. NGOs, professional organisations, the Children’s Commissioner and the Families Commission were responsible for many of the high quality submissions made to the Parliamentary Select Committee considering Sue Bradford’s Bill, and for putting forward the positive case for reform at every opportunity.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 129.
“There are situations in which people assess the frequency of a class or the probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind…man has at his disposal a procedure (the availability heuristic) for estimating the numerosity of a class, the likelihood of an event, or the frequency of co-occurrences, by the ease with which the relevant mental operations of retrieval, construction, or association can be performed.” Tversky, A. Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgement under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185 (4157), 1127-1128.
“Wherever possible, spokespersons with a known public identity and appropriate media presentation skills were promoted to the media and they made themselves available for interviews and panel discussions.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 165.
“The child advocacy group Every Child Counts published a helpful media kit that identified common items of misinformation circulating in the media and provided factual information for countering them.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 164.
Hassal, I. (2015, July 21). Smacking going out of style. The Dominion Post.
“The activities […] of this informal coalition of many leading advocates and NGO’s included: […]
- encouraging concerned citizens to meet with politicians in their electorate offices or email or write to them
- establishing a website with a facility that made it easy for supporters to send messages to politicians (Before this was set up politicians reported that the number of emails opposing the Bill far exceeded the number in favour- this trend was reversed when supporters were provided with an easy way of contacting politicians).”
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 127-128.
“The high level of media interest did provide a golden opportunity to inform the debate, so considerable effort went into developing good working relationships with respected political and social reporters as well as with commentators who were sympathetic to the cause. Where it was known that an event was coming up that would be of interest to the media, advocates sought to prepare the ground by briefing selected reporters beforehand.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 164.
“The reach of the campaign was greatly enhanced by electronic technology. The use of email for distributing information and appealing for action, the provision of a blog site for supporters to express opinions, and the previously mentioned ‘Write to your local MP’ facility, all helped to increase the effectiveness and impact of the campaign.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008) Unreasonable force. New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children, 128.
“A variety of events was significant in swaying public opinion towards repeal at times. One such was the case of a Timaru woman who was acquitted despite admitting that she had beaten her adolescent son with a riding crop and a bamboo cane.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 141-142.
Jury clears mother over ‘six of the best’. (2005, May 27). New Zealand Herald.
“Framing the public debate was important in determining its course. When the bill became a public issue, journalists sought a dramatic and easily remembered label. They were, perhaps unwittingly, influenced by the Bill’s opponents who sought to alarm the public with the idea that it would criminalise ‘good parents’ who were just doing what most New Zealanders considered trivial and normal. The popular label became ‘the anti-smacking bill’. The use of this term continued in spite of the fact that the cases which had aroused public concern were ones in which parents has successfully used section 59 as a defence in prosecutions for assaults that involved much more than what is usually meant by the term ‘smacking’. A more fitting title might have been ‘the anti-child assault bill’, although this does not have quite the same populist ring.” Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 140-141.
Wood, B. Hassall, I. Hook, G. (2008). Unreasonable force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning the physical punishment of children. Wellington: Save the Children New Zealand, 141.
Eliot, G. (1856). The Natural History of German Life.
Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 57.
“The useful child, therefore, provided a unique economic buffer for the working-class family of the late nineteenth century.” Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 60.
“The main legislation restricting the use of children in employment is the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. The term “child” in this context is defined as anyone of compulsory school age (up to age sixteen). The general rules are that no child may be employed under the age of fifteen years, or fourteen years for light work; be required to work during school hours; before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. on any day; or be required to work for more than two hours on any day they are required to attend school, for more than twelve hours in any week they are required to attend school; or for more than two hours on Sundays. For non-school days, children under the age of fifteen may work up to five hours a day on days that they are not required to attend school, not including Sundays, up to a maximum of twenty five hours per week. Those aged fifteen years or older may work up to eight hours per day on any day school attendance is not required, up to a maximum of thirty five hours per week, with the limit to working a maximum of two hours on a Sunday still applying. Anyone employing children over the age of fourteen must provide them with at least a one hour break after they have worked four or more hours. It is an offense to employ a child in contravention of these laws, punishable by a fine. Additional provisions are applicable to children in the entertainment industry, which provides an exemption: that children can perform certain duties under a license. Local authorities can also make by-laws to further restrict the hours or circumstances in which children may work.” Feikert, C. (2008). Children’s Rights: United Kingdom (England and Wales).
“Shifts in the legal evaluation of children thus serve as a measure of the changing relationship between the price and value of children.” Zelizer, V. (1985). Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 164.