Rebecca Smith and Martin Beckford of the Telegraph (UK) tell us the British experts have concluded that smacking (i.e., spanking) children for misbehavior doesn’t work and is equivalent to physical assault. They quote RCPCH president Prof. Ternce Stephenson as saying, “Children should be provided with the same protection against physical assault as adults, and aside from being unnecessary, smacking is generally a very ineffective deterrent to ‘bad’ behavior.”
“Smacking is too often seen as the easy option – sadly as paediatricians we see all too often today’s smack becomes tomorrow’s punch.”
Parents could previously use “reasonable chastisement” to discipline their children, but the law was tightened under Labour in 2004. The new definition prohibits any force that causes “reddening of the skin”.
The full text of Prof. Stephenson’s comments is here, citing as its authority the Children are Unbeatable Alliance, a UK activist organization. Neither its website, nor the website of the RCPCH, includes a scientific justification for Prof. Stephenson’s opinions. Rather, the activists appeal to the authority if the United Nations and the Council of Europe. By enlisting Prof. Stephenson, the activists also appeal to his authority as the president of a professional society of pediatricians.
Prof. Stephenson’s preferred method of discipline is called “reasonable chastisement.” We have been unable to locate a working definition, though we have found a report which explains what is prohibited in all cases and what might be permissible under the “reasonable chastisement” defense:
The Charging Standard states that for minor assaults committed by an adult upon a child that result in injuries such as grazes, scratches, abrasions, minor bruising, swelling, superficial cuts or a black eye, the appropriate charge will normally be ABH for which the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is no longer available.
However, if the injury amounts to no more than reddening of the skin, and the injury is transient and trifling, a charge of common assault may be laid against the defendant for whom the reasonable chastisement defence remains available to parents or adults acting in loco parentis.