November 2004

Perspectives on physical punishment

The recent edition of "childrenzissues", the journal of the Children's Issues Centre (Vol. 8 No. 2, 2004) is devoted to perspectives on physical punishment of children and includes keynote addresses, panel discussion and some workshop papers from the seminar held in Wellington in June 2004: "Stop it, it hurts me: research and perspectives on the physical punishment of children".It includes: a guest editorial by Jane Ritchie; Professor Anne Smith's presentation on some of the findings of the Children's Issues Centre/Office of the Commissioner for Children literature review; Cindy Kiro's presentation at the seminar; Tino Pereira's "A Pacific perspective on physical punishment" and John Hancock's analysis of "The Application of Section 59 of the Crimes Act in the New Zealand Courts", along with other excellent papers related to physical punishment for children.

Tino Pereira argued that physical punishment and the beating of children is not part of Samoan culture.  He says:

There is nothing in Samoan mythology or in its genealogical make up that suggests, in any shape or form, the sanctioning of the physical punishment of children.  There is nothing in pre-missionary history to suggest any evidence of physical punishment as a way of raising children.

He believes that physical punishment is part of a larger culture, which one way or another, found its way into Samoa through missionaries and become ingrained.

Tino suggests that the answers to reducing violence to children in Samoan communities lie within families and communities' nurturing cultures.  Tino regards churches as places of comfort, of belonging and of being a Pacific person in Aotearoa.  He believes churches are where the issue of physical punishment should now be addressed.

The recent Journal of the Children's Issues Centre also includes the text of Joan Durrant's keynote presentation "Whose body is it anyway".  Among the gems in the presentation is a persuasive argument that decisions that meet children's needs do not deny parents' rights.  This is particularly relevant at a time in Aotearoa New Zealand when there appears to be a resurgence of ‘parents' rights supporters who view rights as a contest.  Joan views respect for parents' rights and duties as something to be considered alongside parental responsibilities to provide their children with care and.  It is the state's responsibility to provide parents with support and assistance in carrying out their responsibilities.

This edition of the Child's Issues Centre is a significant source of good information on physical punishment of children.  If you don't already subscribe to the journal, you may like to do so.  For information contact

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