The Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth was developed by a national coalition of organizations facilitated by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). It was published Sept/04 and recommends that children be given the same protection from physical assault as is given to Canadian adults and to children in a growing number of countries. It has now been endorsed by over 400 Canadian organizations.
The Statement is based on extensive research and provides an overview of the developmental outcomes associated with the use of physical punishment of children and youth.
It highlights the following findings:
- There is no clear evidence of any benefit from the use of physical punishment on children.
- There is strong evidence that physical punishment places children at risk for physical injury, poorer mental health, impaired relationships with parents, weaker internalization of moral values, antisocial behaviour, poorer adult adjustment and tolerance of violence in adulthood.
- Few parents believe that physical punishment is effective, most believe it is unnecessary and harmful, and a majority think the most common outcome is parental guilt or regret.
- Parents are more likely to use physical punishment if they approve of it, experienced it themselves as children, feel anger in response to their children’s behaviour, are subject to depression, or are burdened by particular forms of stress.
These research findings, it states, are remarkably consistent. They link its use to many negative developmental outcomes in children. As well, no positive long-term developmental outcomes have been identified by the research on physical punishment. It is a risk factor for physical injury of a child and erosion of the parent-child relationship, as well as for poorer psychological adjustment and increased levels of aggression throughout life. Furthermore, it perpetuates the use of violence by the next generation.
Recommendations on public awareness strategies, education, and law reform are made on pages 16-17 of the Statement. The recommendations on law reform (#5) are a clear call for repeal of s. 43 and are as follows:
- Physical punishment of children can no longer be justified by the Criminal Code of Canada.
- Children in Canada must be given the same protection from physical assault as that given to Canadian adults and to children in a growing number of countries. Our children’s rights to physical integrity and dignity must be recognized in our law.
- Canadian laws must be consistent in communicating a clear standard of caregiving and consistent with Canada’s 1991 ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- The law should not contradict the growing and persuasive body of research evidence that physical punishment has no benefit and poses only risk to children and youth. The effectiveness of public education messages to this effect will be limited as long as they are undermined by the Criminal Code.
Endorsement by organizations: Canadian organizations that support the Statement’s research, conclusions and recommendations are invited to endorse it. Endorsement signifies confidence in its review of research, conclusions and recommendations.
It has now been endorsed by over 400 Canadian organizations and further endorsements are invited. Over the years, many of its endorsers have written individual letters to justice ministers or signed open letters in newspapers calling for repeal of s. 43. Click Supporting Organizations for this list.
Click www.cheo.on.ca/en/physicalpunishment for the complete Joint Statement and related material.