Parental Discipline, Criminal Laws, and Responsive Regulation

Bronwyn Naylor and Bernadette J. Saunders

in Law and Childhood Studies

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652501
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739217 | DOI:

Series: Current Legal Issues

Parental Discipline, Criminal Laws, and Responsive Regulation

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In the debate around the physical discipline of children, neither children's need to be disciplined nor parents' obligation to discipline their children constructively is particularly contentious. Contention arises in relation to whether physical punishment is a necessary component of parental discipline and whether it can be legally or morally justified. This chapter first outlines the clear international human rights-based support for criminalizing physical punishment of children, and then summarizes the current law permitting physical punishment in Australia and the UK. It considers the reform process in a number of countries that have prohibited physical punishment, identifying the political and legal factors leading to the reforms, the impact upon attitudes and incidence of physical violence, and the ways in which the criminalizing of physical punishment has been implemented in practice. Finally, it looks critically at the use of criminal laws in this area and propose a framework for an acceptable regime which both makes a clear statement of the unacceptability of physical punishment and engages with parents to achieve social change without inappropriate stigmatization.

Keywords: physical punishment; children; children's rights; parental discipline; Australia; UK

Chapter.  12919 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Family Law

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