"Never defensible": RCPCH responds to Welsh Government research on smacking

Dr Shabeena Webster responds to new Welsh Government research which examines parental attitudes to smacking children.

Welsh Government have published new research examining parental attitudes to smacking children. The ‘Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children's Behaviour 2017’ research found 11% of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months as a way of managing their behaviour. This figure has halved from 22% in 2015. The research also shows 81% of parents disagreed that “it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child”, a significant increase from 71% in 2015.

It is currently against the law in Wales, England and Northern Ireland for a parent or carer to physically punish their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. Welsh Government have committed to introducing legislation to remove this defence in Wales, meaning that adults looking after children would no longer be able to use physical punishment against them for any reason.

Responding to the Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children’s Behaviour 2017 study, Dr Shabeena Webster of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Wales, said:

“Smacking a defenceless child is unacceptable. We’re therefore pleased to see that the number of parents in Wales who say they smack their children has halved. But 1 in 10 parents smacking their young children in the last 6 months is still far too many, which is why we look forward to new legislation from the Welsh Government to remove the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’.

"The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that children should be protected from physical violence. The defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ is therefore a significant loophole. Welsh Government must introduce this new legislation without delay to protect Wales’ most vulnerable citizens and send a clear message that smacking children is never reasonable, and certainly never defensible.“