This review was commissioned by the Scottish Government to explore the legal approach taken in a variety of jurisdictions to the smacking of children and to review research evidence on the outcomes of physical punishment and on alternative approaches to disciplining children. This is a literature review of the international evidence on parental physical punishment and other forms of disciplinary approaches regarding their effectiveness and outcomes. It does not look at physical punishment in institutions. The majority of the studies included in this review on parental physical punishment relate to pre-school and young school-aged children. It does not specifically examine studies which explore the use of physical punishment with adolescents, as the use of physical punishment with adolescents is a lot less common, although some of the longitudinal studies examined explore the longer-term impacts of physical punishment into adolescence. The evidence on the effectiveness and outcomes of other forms of disciplinary approaches covers a wider age range, and evidence relating to specific age groups of children will be highlighted. The report also identifies and discusses the international experience of physical punishment legislation as well as recommendations of particular approaches to parental disciplinary approaches in three countries: Sweden, New Zealand and Germany.
This report will begin with a summary of the methods of the literature review, an overview of the legal approach taken in other jurisdictions and the limitations of the research in this area. Typologies of parenting styles will then be explored and an overview provided of the prevalence of the use of physical punishment drawing on UK studies. Evidence on the effectiveness and outcomes of physical punishment, authoritarian and authoritative disciplinary styles will then be examined. Lastly, this report will explore international evidence on the prohibition of physical punishment in three countries: Sweden, Germany and New Zealand. For an overview of the law in Scotland in relation to parental responsibilities and rights, see Annex 1.
Young People and Youth Justice