Correspondence with Kiro’s Office
FYI, here is some correspondence I have had with the Children’s Commission. I have had no further reply, and it is reasonable to conclude that Ms Kiro has made a claim about research that she cannot back up with evidence.
Dear Ms Kiro
Re: Your comments in Dominion Post Article “Keeping Our Children Safe”, 04.02.08
Your opinions underestimate the importance to children of an upbringing in which parents are in charge and thereby provide a secure environment through confident limit-setting and disciplinary consequences. Your opinions also overestimate the importance of social modelling theory and underestimate the role of other factors impacting on behavioural development, particularly behaviour training through reward and punishment, the management of immediate consequences.
You challenge the idea that parents “own” children, but you fail to acknowledge that the alternative is that the state owns our children, and you fail to admit that when the state attempts to usurp the role of parents the outcome is usually disastrous. There is simply no evidence in the history of human civilization that supports the idea that the state is better at parenting than are parents, except perhaps for a tiny proportion of the very worst parents.
I realise that it is probably futile to offer arguments and reasoning in relation to the socialist-feminist dogma you have committed yourself to. However, I request that you to provide me with references to back up your claim that “the evidence shows that the use of physical punishment increases the likelihood of disruptive and aggressive behaviour in children”. From my reading of the literature there is no study showing that normal smacking, i.e. that does not cause physical injury and at statistically normal frequencies and intensities, causes any detrimental effect on children’s development. However, there is considerable evidence showing that unconfident parenting and low parental authority cause major damage to children’s development. I believe that your claim is dishonest and that is a most serious matter. I would appreciate specific references to the research supporting your claim. Please do not direct me to the so-called literature review that your office commissioned in an attempt to influence the political process in relation to Section 59, because I have read that review and I know that it failed to come up with one single study showing that normal kinds of physical punishment damage child development, despite the obvious bias brought to the review by authors keen to portray your preferred picture at the expense of objectivity and honesty.
Hello Hans, thank you for your email regarding the article Keeping Our
Children Safe in the Dominion Post on 4th February. I am glad you read it in
its entirety. Your interpretations are not entirely accurate however.
You want research based to back up my claim that the evidence shows that the
use of physical punishment increases the likelihood of disruptive and
aggressive behaviour in children.
I suggest that you contact the psychological society for this research.
They came out strongly for the repeal of section 59, and therefore will have
their research which would meet your needs.
Thank you for your email. I hope you find the information you require.
Child Rights Advisor
Office of the Children’s Commissioner
Telephone 0800 224453
Dear Ms Elborn
Thank you for your prompt reply. My correspondence was addressed to Ms Kiro and I request that it and the present reply be forwarded to her.
You expressed a hope I find the information I require, but unfortunately your hope is futile. I have previously requested, received and checked research references that I asked the Psychological Society to provide in justification of its stance, and I can confidently report there was no credible research study showing that normal, as opposed to abusive, levels of smacking created any measurable problem for children’s development. The studies they referred me to mostly involved or were contaminated by physical abuse far beyond normal smacking, and there were a few that studied normal levels of smacking and found temporary minor frustration responses in children the significance of which was unclear and that probably would have been produced by most other methods of limit-setting.
Even if any research had adequately demonstrated that smacking increased the likelihood of “disruptive and aggressive behaviour” in children, it would be necessary to show that any such effect involved more than transitory frustration responses, that any such effect was greater after smacking than for other approaches to limit-setting and punitive consequences, and that any such effect was detrimental to children’s development. For example, many children behave in frustrated and angry ways at being put in a time-out room and it would therefore be true to say that time-out increases disruptive and aggressive behaviour in children. From my observations this effect is much greater on average for time out than it is for smacking.
Ms Kiro has made a definitive claim about what research has shown, yet she appears unable to produce or to direct me to the specific research on which her claim is purportedly based. Stating that some esteemed group or another agrees with her does not suffice. This is a serious matter, calling into question Ms Kiro’s integrity. Even worse, her claim in the context of an article that confuses smacking with violence, implies that smacking is necessarily detrimental to children’s development and is correlated with abuse and killing. Neither has been found to be true despite extensive research efforts to do so. This is very irresponsible stuff from a prominent public servant.
I ask again for a reference to the research study or studies on which Ms Kiro made her claim.