Changing Attitudes to Physical Punishment of Children in Aotearoa New Zealand

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Save the Children New Zealand

In 2007 Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1971 was amended in New Zealand to protect children from assault in any context. The repeal of the law supported children’s rights to dignity, bodily integrity, safety, and equal protection with adults under the law.

During the long campaign to have the law changed, media attention was sometimes sensational and polarising. At the time New Zealand was one of 18 countries and the first English-speaking country to protect children from all forms of corporal punishment.

Since the law change, there has not been a public campaign to promote support for the law or inform parents on why choosing not to hit children is good for their parenting as well as their children, therefore many parents remain unaware of research showing the negative effects of physical punishment.

This report presents survey findings of a nation-wide survey related to physical punishment and support of the law change. These questions and the methodology were consistent with questions asked in a 2008 survey, directly after the law change.

The results show that support for the current law continues to rise; only 24% of adults surveyed do not support the law. Save the Children strongly urges that the law change be embedded politically and culturally and there is never again defensible assault of children allowed in New Zealand.

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