Researchers from Michigan State University in the US have found nearly as many as one in four parents or caregivers slap their children in public.
Or, to use the academic term, the children are at the receiving end of what their study calls "negative touch" – anything from arm-pulling to pinching.
Lead researcher Dr Kathy Stansbury wrote: "I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behaviour done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers."And once again, here’s ‘many people’ being used where ‘all my friends and colleagues’ would be far more accurate…
I was reminded of psychologist Jonathan Haidt's argument that there is a liberal bias in academics, especially in the social sciences. So I asked the question on social media. All but one respondent replied with a "yes, it's undesirable", with some stretching to "undesirable and (it should be) criminal". Hmm. Perhaps I was the one out of touch here.Well, not really, since (leaving aside reTweets) most of the people following you on Twitter will be people of your own social circle or viewpoint. Very few people follow those they don't agree with. So you're still fishing in a very small pool...
Full disclosure: I was smacked as a child. At home, I had taps on the backs of my legs, rulers on the flat of my hands and – a couple of memorable times – the tongue of a belt on the palm. This form of discipline had pretty much ceased by the time I was about 10, but then I went to secondary school. Corporal punishment was normal and sanctioned by the school system (as it had been in most Nigerian primary schools)….
I, along with a bunch of friends, was smacked and we turned out undamaged. But then, a lot of my friends and peers weren't smacked and they're responsible, undamaged adults too. Of course, it works the other way too, which suggests to me that smacking is not the deciding factor here.Indeed!
Parenting is a personal thing, often done publicly. And it's worth remembering that the social stigma of smacking does not seem to be stopping a determined set of parents from "disciplining" their children this way.
The law as it stands has a "reasonable chastisement" clause, which permits mild smacking. And that's how it should stay – parents need some autonomy in deciding on how to raise their own children.Parents do. So, perhaps you'd like to have a word with your fellow columnists, who seem to want to mandate everything from breastfeeding to the toys children should play with?