July 2005

Response to Larzelere's claims

Professor Joan Durrant, the world's foremost researcher on the effects of Sweden's physical punishment reform, has written a comprehensive rebuttal of the claims made by Larzelere and others who seek to distort the intent and effect of Sweden's reform.Larzelere claims that physical punishment has not declined in Sweden, that child abuse has increased and that the ban on corporal punishment has caused youth violence to increase.  Joan Durrant's publication "Law Reform and Corporal Punishment in Sweden: Response to Robert Larzelere, the Christian Institute and Families First", systematically addresses these claims.

Larzelere's critique reflects a misunderstanding of Swedish history, culture and law and a misrepresentation of Joan Durrant's analyses and of official data.

Some examples from the executive summary of the report:

"Larzelere's claim: Physical punishment has not declined over time.

Response: Larzelere examines data collected at one point in time (1994) to draw conclusions over time.  When studies based on data collected from the 1950s to the 1990s are examined, it is clear that physical punishment has declined dramatically.  Whereas all children born into the 1950s were physically punished and 13% hit with implements, only a minority of those born in 1980 were physically punished, even once or twice.  Virtually none of today's youth have been hit with implements."

"Larzelere's claim: Physical assaults of children have increased.

Response: Larzelere erroneously uses police reporting statistics as if they were rates of actual assault.  He fails to recognise that reporting rates are highly vulnerable to changes to legal and cultural definitions of violence.  As public sensitivity to violence increases, so do reporting rates.  The proportion of total assault reports composed of aggravated assaults has not increased, indicating that assaults are more likely to be reported, but their severity has not increased.  A study by the National Crime Prevention Council supports the conclusion that the increase seen in reporting does not reflect a true in violence against children."

Full copies of the rebuttal, and other papers on the effects of Sweden's reforms on attitudes to corporal punishment and incidence of child abuse in Sweden can be viewed here under Research and Other Papers