I would like to take the rest of my time to address some of the arguments that are used by those who oppose any form of physical correction. We might hear some of those arguments today from different members.
For example, how will this group, Justice for Children and Youth, argue in court against section 43? Maybe some of the very statements we will find in a somewhat empty way coming from the other side of the House today.
First, Justice for Children and Youth will argue that section 43 violates the charter of rights and freedoms because it discriminates on the basis of age. It will point out that because adults are protected by the law from assault, children should be protected from physical discipline.
The problem with that argument is that a swat on the bottom that gets a toddler's attention but which does not bruise or do physical harm is hardly analogous to an assault by one adult against another. In the case of adults, the intent is to do harm and the victim often winds up in the hospital. In the case of discipline by loving parents, the intention is simply to offer a negative consequence or, we might say, feedback for persistent misbehaviour and the child is in no way physically harmed by the discipline.
Second, when it gets to court this advocacy group is going to argue that physical discipline instead of changing a child's behaviour for the better causes aggressive tendencies in children. The assumption is that the child will imitate mom and dad. If mom and dad use physical discipline, the child who receives that discipline will start hitting others. When this argument gets made, we are going to see the absurd in the court system.
Academics who do research in the field of pediatrics are currently engaged in a debate over the effects of physical discipline on children. Does it improve compliance among children or does it increase aggressiveness? That is the question being asked by academic people. The debate can be highly technical. It is clear there is no scholarly consensus that has emerged in all the issues. In fact, many scholars agree that there is a woeful lack of research being done in this area, prompting some of them to call for greater attention and research.
The point is that this debate in academic halls is still very much in its infancy. Yet in the near future that debate is going to shift from the academic journals into the courts. A judge with no study and no academic background in this area is going to be hearing conflicting interpretations of research results and will have to make a decision. This shows just how absurd the situation with our courts has become under the charter.
Any interest group citing supposed research studies can walk into a courtroom and try to convince a judge that research shows that this or that is the case and that the charter is being violated. It is really an abuse of the court system, something the court system was never intended for, with judges being asked to settle academic research questions. That is the role of parliament. That is the role of this place. That is the role of committees in calling expert witnesses before committees when there is time for that kind of thing. Judges are not to make laws; they are simply to rule on the laws that are in place.
What does the research say about the effects of physical discipline on children? Does physical correction have positive outcomes or negative outcomes? Has it led to improved behaviour in children or has the misbehaviour continued accompanied by new aggressive tendencies? In one sense the researchers have come to contradictory conclusions, as I have indicated. Some studies have found negative outcomes, others positive.
I would like to describe why the conclusions have varied so much by referring to the work of Dr. Robert Larzelere, of the University of Nebraska medical school. He published in the Journal of Pediatrics , one of the most important resources on this very topic. He undertook a literature review of studies published in scholarly journals in the last 30 years. He studied 35 relevant articles.
Something rather important for us to note is that many of those studies, in fact the sum total of 24 of them, did not leave abusive dysfunctional family situations out of the research. In fact it came down to only being 11 of the studies that excluded abusive family situations. Of these 11 that left abusive family situations out of the research altogether, six of those studies showed beneficial outcomes, four of them showed neutral outcomes and only one showed negatived outcomes.
That suggests that when used properly by parents who truly love their children, physical correction has positive results and no negative results. Based on these studies, Dr. Larzelere was able to be specific about the kind of physical punishment that brings beneficial results. On average he found that in a loving, responsible, functional home situation there were beneficial results when corporal correction was used less than weekly.
There were beneficial results when corporal correction was used at non-abusive levels of severity. There were beneficial results when it was used by parents who were not physically violent against family members, for example a father beating a wife or vice versa.
There were beneficial results when it was used without a potentially damaging instrument. With corporal correction there were beneficial results when used from ages two to six. There were beneficial results when it was used privately, not in public. There were beneficial results when it was used with reasoning and explanation.
There were beneficial results when it was used with a moderate level of child distress. As well, there were beneficial results when corporal correction was used primarily as a back up for other methods of discipline. This back up threat made reasoning and time out more effective, so the need for physical punishment decreased over time.
Beneficial results occurred when corporal correction was used by loving parents who were positively involved with their child and had child oriented motivations. It was not about the parent. It was about the rearing and the constructive raising of that child.
Corporal correction did not increase the child's fear of parental discipline. It was beneficial when parents co-operated with each other in discipline responsibilities and did not use verbal putdowns. Corporal correction is also beneficial when parents change their main discipline method to grounding when their children got older.
Based on those 11 studies that excluded abusive family situations, physical correction was seen to have positive results in six of the studies, neutral results in four, and negative results in one.
I would contend in view of this information that many of the studies had some flawed methodology weaknesses. Of the 35 studies, in fact 24 did. Of the other 11 studies it was found that on the basis of positive, responsible parenting in other ways there was positive benefit.
In my summary at the end of the hour I will refer to some follow-up research done by Marjorie Gunnoe, some very extensive confirmation of these findings. Again I ask for unanimous consent for this motion to be deemed adopted in the House today.