Most adults agree that smacking naughty children doesn’t pose a “high risk” to their welfare, according to a new survey by an anti-smacking children’s charity.
The results are likely to be seen as a blow to anti-smacking campaigners who have long tried to convince parents that smacking is detrimental to their children’s welfare.
The survey, conducted by The Children’s Society, revealed that two-thirds of the adults surveyed don’t believe that smacking poses a “high risk” to children.
Dr Patricia Morgan, a prominent social science author, welcomed the results, saying: “There is a major gap between what parents think and what the campaigners tell them.
“All the existing research shows that children brought up by permissive parents do worse than those who set boundaries and enforce the rules, and those who are smacked as a punishment for breaking rules in such families do better. Parents are right.”
The research revealed that 32 per cent of respondents believed smacking to be of low risk, while 36 per cent believed it to be of medium risk.
By contrast 33 per cent of those surveyed described physical punishment as high risk.
But Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, expressed concern over the results.
Mr Reitemeier said: “Physical violence is something children definitely need to be protected from. The survey revealed a worrying lack of concern by one third of people surveyed about parents slapping their children.
“Children are the only group of people in this country who can be legally hit on a regular basis by others, with little protection in law.”
But this claim was dismissed by Dr Morgan, who said: “Children are the only people who can be legally sent to bed by others. Does that make it wrong?”
The results were from a wider survey, carried out by market researchers GfK NOP, which asked 2,047 adults to identify the biggest risks faced by youngsters aged six to 15 in six different scenarios.
Earlier this year bureaucrats from the Council of Europe said that parents who smack their children should be prosecuted for assault.
Family value campaigners expressed alarm that “a vocal minority” of activists were in danger of undermining the authority of parents to discipline their children.
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, said: “Prohibiting all corporal punishment is a legal imperative and I hope the United Kingdom will take that essential step urgently.”
She also claimed that gentle smacks which do not leave a mark could cause children psychological harm, and attacked the UK’s approach to parenting which is “one of authority.”
But Norman Wells, Director of the Family Education Trust, said: “It is parents, and not national governments, who bear the responsibility of caring for children, nurturing them, and correcting them where necessary.”