Study: Corporal punishment of children acceptable, hitting adults not ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Despite it being banned by law, a significant number of Estonians still consider the corporal punishment of children to be understandable.
Despite it being banned by law, a significant number of Estonians still consider the corporal punishment of children to be understandable. Source: Elijah O'Donnell/Unsplash

Although the corporal punishment of children is prohibited in Estonia, a large number of children and adults find its use is occasionally justified. Nearly one in five parents uses corporal punishment on their own children as well, it appears from the results of a study on children's rights and parenting conducted by Estonian think tank Praxis.

A total of 42% of adults considered hitting, hair-pulling and other physical forms of discipline to be an acceptable parenting method, and one in ten fully agreed with the statement. More than one fifth admitted that corporal punishment constitutes violence but is nonetheless justified in certain situations.

Physical violence between adults, meanwhile, was condemned significantly more often. Four fifths of adults surveyed did not consider physical violence an acceptable means of settling a score.

The corporal punishment of children was banned in Estonia in 2016. Nearly a third of adults had not heard this was the case, however, or were unable to answer a question about it. Children were on the whole even less aware of this fact — 43% of children surveyed were unable to give a definite answer about it. Nearly half of children gave the right answer, and the longer a child had been in school, the more likely they were to know about the ban.

Two third of children, however, considered corporal punishment to be violence. Despite this, just over a quarter of children nonetheless considered it to be understandable and necessary in some cases, and children who had been punished during the past year agreed with this claim significantly more frequently. In other words, experiencing physical violence makes people more tolerant of its use.

It was also noted in the results of the survey that parents who had themselves been subject to corporal punishment as children considered physical violence an acceptable parenting method significantly more often. While nearly half of parents who had been subject to corporal punishment as children considered it acceptable, just 29% of parents wh had not experienced it themselves agreed. Significant differences by gender were noted as well: while three fourths of women considered corporal punishment to be violence, just 54% of men agreed. The number of people to agree has fallen 12% over the last six years, however.

Praxis' study found that compared to 2010, the degree to which corporal punishment is deemed acceptable by parents in Estonia has not declined, and in fact societal attitudes have, if anything, become more tolerant toward it over the last six years. Comparing the latest results with those of previous studies is admittedly difficult, however, as the methodology used has differed somewhat.

According to the results of the study, over the preceding year, 18% of parents had pulled their children's hair, 14% had whipped their children, and one third of parents had threatened their children with corporal punishment in order to make them behave. The frequent corporal punishment of children is nonetheless rather rare. According to survey results, parents most often call on their children to behave, explain what they did wrong, and forbid them from doing it again.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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