Can you use physical force to punish your child in NSW?

The way children are raised is significantly dependent on the sociocultural influences around them, and a contentious issue that is often discussed is the use of physical punishment on children as a form of discipline.

The NSW Law

Under the Crimes Amendment (Child Protection - Physical Mistreatment) Act 2001 No 89 (NSW), the use of excessive physical force to punish children is limited, and only specific parts of a child’s body can be subject to force. Further, Section 61AA of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), in criminal proceedings brought against a person arising out of the application of physical force to a child, there is a defence of “lawful correction” if the physical force was applied by a parent for the purposes of punishment, and that the physical force was reasonable having regard to various factors including age, health and maturity. The defence will not however be available if the Court determines that the force was applied to any part of the head or neck of a child or to any other part of the body of a child in such a way as to be likely to cause harm to a child that lasts for more than a short period.

Effect on Children

Whilst there are laws surrounding the extreme use of physical force against children, corporal punishment is highly prevalent globally and there is often no legislation effectively regulating the extremity that some children may experience. The World Health Organisation found that around 60% of children aged between 2 and 14 regularly experience physical punishment by their parents or caregivers, and evidence shows that this not only increases children’s behavioural problems, but also links to a range of life-long negative outcomes such as mental illness, increased aggression, and impaired socio-emotional development. Further, the American Psychological Association has proposed alternative ways to resolve child behavioural issues that do not involve conflict, including taking away certain privileges, using praise to shape behaviour, or ignoring the behaviour.

Should you wish to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

Freedman & Gopalan Solicitors
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