Sweden became the first country to outlaw physical punishment of children in 1979. Now, the first generation of Swedish young adults to have been raised in a spanking-free society is in its thirties. Contrary to what your cantankerous, defensive grandpa might suggest, the entire country hasn't turned into a bunch of spoiled namby pamby brats. But would similar anti-spanking laws ever fly stateside?
Doctors, psychologists, and finger wagging experts agree that spanking is bad. Children who are physically punished by their parents exhibit heightened aggression, low IQ, and bullying. A study published in 2008 found that adults who were spanked as children are more likely to have sexual problems, as some surmise being spanked by a parent can lead a child to conflate physical pain and love.
In spite of this, 80 to 90% of American parents say they spank their children. It's legal to hit your own child in all 50 states, and 19 states even allow schools to use corporeal punishment. Some parents say that it's the only punishment that prompts an immediate end to their child's unruly behavior. "Parental rights" advocates insist that legislation that attempts to regulate what parents can and cannot do to their children is akin to government intrusion.
In contrast, only a single digit percentage of Swedish children are currently spanked. Part of this is due to the fact that since the mid-20th century, spanking has been viewed as passe among Swedish parents; when physical punishment of children was made illegal, it was already fading in popularity.
The rule that made spanking illegal wasn't even technically part of the penal code, but rather a gentle vanilla flavored suggestion in the Swedish Children and Parents Code. Chapter 6, Section 1 now reads,
Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment.
Offenders weren't subject to criminal punishment. If you're caught hitting your child in Sweden, tall and stoic but standoffish people will come to your house and remind you that it's illegal and point you in the direction of resources and services that can help you not be so slappy with Junior. The whole thing would give Ron Swanson hives.
So would something like that ever work here? Probably not as legislation; nearly every American parent spanks their children, and they all turned out just fine thank you very much, insists everyone. In order for Americans to stop spanking their kids, culture would have to change to resemble Sweden's— community-minded when it comes to child rearing, more trusting of the government, better at making Lutfisk, and blonder.
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