Smacking children should be banned to protect mental health, psychologists say

Sabrina Barr
Stock image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Psychologists are calling for the smacking of children in the family home to be outlawed due to the effect it can have on their mental health.

A motion has been put forward to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) from the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) urging the government to “acknowledge that physical punishment can have negative long-term effects on a child’s development.”

Parents and carers are currently legally allowed to smack children lightly if it can be described as a “reasonable punishment”, as outlined in section 58 of the Children Act 2004.

However, psychologists who have backed the ban state that hitting is never an effective method of disciplining a child, no matter the circumstances.

Corporal punishment became illegal in British state schools in 1986, but remained legal in private schools until 1998 in England and Wales, until 2000 in Scotland and until 2003 in Northern Ireland.

John Drewicz, president of the AEP, is due to speak today at the annual TUC Conference in Manchester.

He'll outline how smacking impacts a child’s mental health and perpetuates damaging messages about violence.

His speech will discuss how smacking a child can negatively impact their mental health and can encourage them to behave in a more aggressive and violent manner.

Furthermore, he'll reference several countries where a full ban on smacking children is already in place, including Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Germany and Portugal.

The motion being put forward by the AEP references similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Welsh government was proposing to ban smacking children by asking the country’s population for its views on the issue.

Furthermore, earlier this week Green MSP John Finnie put forward a bill in Holyrood to outlaw the smacking of children, which received the backing of the Scottish government and numerous MSPs from different political parties.

Children’s charity Save the Children states that all children have a “right to protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect,” and describes the act of smacking a child as a form of “child abuse."