November 2003

The UNICEF Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations League Tabl

The release of this report was one of the events that triggered some of the publicity that physical punishment attracted recently.  The report placed New Zealand fifth worst of 27 OECD countries in rates of child maltreatment deaths per 100,000 of children under 15.

The report forced New Zealand to once again examine its performance in this area and promoted discussion about why we are so violent with our children. It also prompted a backlash of denial and minimisation.  This was reflected in some prominent people, discrediting the statistics used in the report.  In doing so they moved the discussion away from the real problem of the of  violence that children experience in this country.  The report focused on deaths rather than other statistics kept about child abuse because other statistics  do not provide meaningful comparisons between countries.  The death statistics used are based on internationally standardised codes for classifying deaths (all deaths - not just child abuse deaths).  There is no evidence, as some critics have suggested, to support the idea that some of the countries "doctor" their statistics to look better than they are or that some countries look worse because they are better at recognising child abuse deaths than others.  Recent research from the USA, one of the worst countries on the league table, indicated the opposite: that maltreatment deaths are still under recognised.The authors of the report saw changing the culture of violence towards children current in many parts of the world as necessary to reduce child abuse.  So the report included a significant discussion about ending corporal punishment to children.

The report says: And the challenge of ending child abuse, therefore, is the challenge of breaking the link between adults' problems and children's pain.  It ought not to be part of family culture, or our societies' culture for the psychological, social or economic stress of adults to be vented on children, or for problems and frustrations to be so easily translated into the abuse of the defenceless.  The task therefore is of creating a culture of non-violence towards children, of building a barrier of social and individual conscience which says that it is totally unacceptable in any circumstances for adults to express either their will or their frustrations in the language of violence towards the young.

An electronic copy of the child maltreatment deaths report can be obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .