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Reports
Wednesday, 20-September-2006
(telegraph.co.uk)- - The majority of parents believes smacking is an acceptable way to discipline children, according to the latest research, which also uncovers widespread confusion about the law.

The number of those in favour of smacking was higher among adults without children, 80 per cent of whom said they would support smacking as a punishment if necessary.

Among parents, the proportion who said they smacked their children fell, but only to 67 per cent.

The survey of 1,939 adults by GFK NOP was conducted for an ITV1 documentary, I Smack and I'm Proud, to be shown tomorrow, which follows five families who say they smack to discipline their children.

Parents aged 35-54 were most likely to have smacked their children, with nearly three-quarters – 74 per cent – saying they had done so, said the research. The vast majority of adults opposed moves for an outright ban.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of parents and adults without families were against a complete smacking ban. Similar proportions did not consider a light smack the same as "hitting" a child. Children's charities do not differentiate between smacking and hitting, saying they amount to the same thing to a child.

Many adults who were polled by ITV expressed concern about violence and unruly behaviour among teenagers in public and were worried that a ban on smacking would erode discipline further.

Only 43 per cent understood the law in England and Wales that states that mild smacking is legal but any blow which leaves a mark on a child is illegal and could result in action.

Last year a report said parents should be banned from inflicting even the mildest of smacks on their children because they often did it out of anger and "social stress" rather than as a "considered disciplinary measure".

The Commission on Families and the Wellbeing of Children, led by eminent child psychiatrist Prof Sir Michael Rutter, said smacking could escalate to "frank abuse" and it was wrong for children to have less legal protection than adults.

Under the law, mild smacking is allowed but parents who hit children hard enough to leave a mark face up to five years' imprisonment.

A "reasonable chastisement" defence is still available to parents but they can be charged with common assault if a smack causes bruises, grazes, scratches or minor swellings.

The Government suffered a rebellion by 47 Labour MPs who wanted a total ban on smacking when measures were passed in the Children Act in 2004.
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