A systematic review of research literature on physical punishment, jointly commissioned by Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland and NSPCC Scotland was published in November (see: Equally Protected? A review of the evidence on the physical punishment of children). The report found strong and consistent evidence from 98 studies that physical punishment damages children’s wellbeing and carries risk of escalation into severe abuse. It highlights evidence that physical punishment increases aggression, antisocial behaviour, depression and anxiety in children and in later life. It found no evidence that a change to the law results in increased criminal proceedings but rather that it facilitates culture change. It concludes:
Research papers commonly conclude that ‘more research is necessary’. However, when the existing evidence is as strong as it is in the case of physical punishment, and given that physical punishment is a clear human rights violation, there seems to be little value in calling for more research on its effects. To borrow Gershoff’s words: ’We know enough now to stop hitting our children.’
The report was endorsed by key Scottish agencies, and the commissioning organisations hope it will spur the Scottish Government to support legislative reform, particularly following the recent ban in the Republic of Ireland.