Parents Intend To Continue Flouting Smacking Law – Poll

Media Release 2 April 2012
An independent nationwide poll of parents who have younger children has found that parents are flouting the anti-smacking law, and will continue to do so – despite the potential for prosecution. They also believe that the law has caused a decline in discipline, and has made no difference to the level of actual child abuse.

“The research shows that parents are continuing to use smacking sparingly but when warranted – because it works. The level of use is consistent with research from Waikato University published three years ago. The politicians are still trying to persuade the public, and themselves, that the law will somehow reduce child abuse – a notion rejected by three out of four parents,” saysBob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“In effect, the politicians have criminalised an act of parenting which the parents themselves simply don’t equate as a criminal act. Parents are treating the law with contempt.”

A similar poll of parents in 2011 found that a third of parents said that their children have threatened to report them if they were smacked. And almost one in four parents said that they had less confidence when dealing with unacceptable behavior from their children since the anti-smacking law was passed.



  • 12% of parents think the law change has made a difference to the level of child abuse in New Zealand.
  • Half the parents said the law change had caused a decline in discipline. A further 12% were unsure.
  • 81% of parents said they would not report another parent who they saw smacking a child on their backside or hand.
  • 56% of parents said they have smacked their child or children since the law change (44% – 2010). Mothers and younger parents are more likely to have smacked.
  • 66% of parents said they would smack their child in future despite the law change, if they felt it was appropriate and necessary to correct their behaviour. 28% said they wouldn’t.
  • Only 29% of parents said the law should stay as it is.


“Parents are willing to risk investigation and possible intervention in their family by flouting the law. But ultimately, they just want to raise great kids and will use whatever techniques work best at the time. Recent police statistics showed that almost 500 kiwi families have had a police investigation for allegations of smacking or minor acts of physical discipline since the anti-smacking law was passed – yet only 7% of them have been serious enough to warrant charges being laid.” 

“Polling in 2009 and 2010 showed that parents were confused by the effect of the law because they have been given conflicting messages by the promoters of the law, legal opinions have contradicted each other, and on top of that there is ‘police discretion’ but not CYF discretion to investigate. And police guidelines state that ‘a prosecution may be warranted if such actions are repetitive or frequent’.” 

“Parents have a right to know whether they are parenting within the law or not. This law has just created confusion and as a result, good parents are being victimised and the real causes of child abuse ignored,” says Mr McCoskrie.

Family First is continuing to call on the government to adopt National MP Chester Borrow’s previous proposed amendment. National MP’s were supporting this amendment until they were ‘whipped’ to vote for Sue Bradford’s bill at the last minute in 2007.

A website was established in 2011 to offer legal advice to parents and to highlight cases of families who have been traumatised by the anti-smacking law –  It also documents why the Prime Minister’s review of the law undertaken by psychologist Nigel Latta was misleading, left out material information, and failed to meet its terms of reference.

The independent poll of 500 parents of younger children (at least one child 12 or under) was undertaken by Curia Market Research on 21/22 March. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%


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