Right: is the school bully a result of parental violence? Some psychologists think so.
It is unlikely that the corporal punishment of children by their parents will be made illegal in Australia, at least in the immediate future.
Popular support for parental corporal punishment of children is high and government intervention in the area is generally seen as intrusive and unlikely to be effective. It is an area that presents major enforcement issues as were it criminalised, the 'crime' would occur largely within the home and would raise major reporting difficulties. The many parents who approve the practice would be unlikely to report their own infringements. Significant physical abuse of children is already illegal and presents its own reporting issues; however, every Australian state and territory requires its mandatory reporting by all professionals involved in the care of children. Suspected significant physical abuse is a relatively easier crime to establish as there is more obvious physical harm shown to the child than results from moderate corporal punishment.
Supporters of the criminalisation of corporal punishment claim that the success of such a law would not depend on the number of apprehensions and prosecutions of offending parents. Rather, they argue, very few if any prosecutions would be expected. The purpose of the law would be to educate parents about the undesirability of using physical force to discipline their children. The law as an instrument of parental education rather than punishment is what is stressed by most of those who want the corporal punishment of children within the home made illegal.
Any government who introduced such a law would be promoting a policy that in the short term would be unpopular. Thus it would take a government seriously committed to taking action on the issue. Such a policy position is only likely to be arrived at when there is a long-term, hard body of evidence to support the benefits that could be expected from such a law. Currently, for example, there is dispute over whether outlawing parental corporal punishment reduces the incidence of more serious physical abuse of children. If such an effect were to be established it would be a compelling argument for making the smacking of children by their parents a crime.
Interestingly, changing the law to make smacking by parents illegal does seem to have an impact on popular attitudes. In countries where such a law has been introduced, support for it grows over time, as does popular disapproval of the use of corporal punishment against children by anyone, including their parents.