Children `seen as not fully human'
By PATRICK CREWDSON - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 7 April 2007
Opponents of anti-smacking legislation are more likely to see children
as not fully human, a study says.
Researchers from Victoria University and Save the Children analysed
submissions to the parliamentary select committee on Green MP Sue
Bradford's bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act.
They contrasted submissions viewing children as "human becomings" -
developing adults "not yet quite human" and requiring correction - with
those that considered them fully-fledged human beings able to make
decisions about their lives and possessing human rights.
They sampled 170 of the 1716 submissions to the select committee,
taking 10 organisations "for" the bill and 10 against, and 75 individuals
"for" the bill and 75 against.
Submissions were categorised depending on their language describing
children, childhood, the parenting role and parenthood.
Forty-eight of the 50 submitters who saw children as human beings
supported the bill, while 39 of the 41 submitters who viewed them as
human becomings were opposed.
The research was conducted last year by Marie Russell, Sophie Debski
and Sue Buckley, from Victoria University's health services research
centre,and Sonya Hogan from Save the Children. Their findings went to the
final day of the Social Development Ministry's three-day Social Policy
Research and Evaluation conference in Wellington on Thursday.
The seminar - also including research from Otago University academics
and the Churches Agency on Social Issues - had a last-minute renaming
to delete the smacking reference from the title.
The researchers said many submitters who supported physical punishment
saw children as impervious to logic or reasoning but able to learn
through pain. Thirteen submitters said children were bad, wilful, and
sinful. Nine said they did not have cognitive ability and could not be
reasoned with - putting them in the "human becoming" category.
The researchers called for a re-evaluation of how New Zealanders saw
children, noting parallels to other "power relationships", like
colonisation. "The `child's view' of the world could be promoted as
having equal validity with that of an `adult's view'," they wrote. "It
might also be worthwhile to raise challenges to the common presentation
of the child as `developing towards adulthood' that occurs in many
settings, and promote the child as a `complete human being' entitled to
all human rights, who is rational and competent and makes a
contribution to society."
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, one of the bill's vocal
opponents, was unsurprised by the research. There was a movement to
politicise the rights of the child, and the bill's supporters failed to
appreciate parents' role in raising children with appropriate
direction,guidance and correction.