Sweden reaps benefit of better nurturance of children
One of the the world’s leading examples of peace and social justice achieved through childrearing reforms exist in Sweden. How did the Swedes manage, despite their relative scarcity of natural resources, and their Arctic climate, to prosper so much and advance so far socially? For instance, Sweden was one of the first countries to enshrine in law equal pay for men and women, in the ACT on Equality Between Men and Women at Work. Sweden has for a long time led the world in the care of children. Swedish churches instigated a universal literacy program over 200 years ago Universal elementary education began in Sweden in 1842. Sweden lowered its infant mortality rate before any other country in the world and continues to lead the world in this area. (1)
In 1979, the new Swedish ‘Children’s Code’ stated that children “shall be treated with respect for their person and their distinctive character and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment”. Sweden was effectively the first country on earth to make hitting children, in any shape, form or intensity, explicitly illegal. Hitters are NOT criminalised, but counselled and educated. Since this law was passed, there has been a cultured shift, with measurable benefit for children. Firstly, there has been a sharp and total reduction in public acceptance of corporal punishment which demonstrates that legislation can alter public attitudes. Secondly, there has been a marked reduction in assaults on children. The death of children caused by their parents’ abuse has been totally eliminated: the child homocide rate was zero for 15 years running.(2) In the decades since the legislation, children’s own reports of being hit have plummeted dramatically, below that of other industrialised nations.
Any fears thet an end to corporal punishment would lead to ‘undisciplined’ children are groundless, and invalidatde by the results. Since 1979, there has been a steady decline in youth crime, youth alcohol and drug abuse, rape and youth suicide. There has also been an increase in the reporting of youth violence, caused by the country-wide zero-tolerance policy toward bullying in schools. Clearly, this legislation giving children the same protection as adults, has been remarkably succesful for Swedish children, as well as for Swedish society as a whole.(3)
As at 1998, Swedish mothers werer entitled to 450 days of paid maternity leave. The rest of the world would reap immeassurable benefits from adopting similar initiatives. Far from being a costly exercise, this will save masses of money in the long term, by helping to create happier, heathier, and better-adjusted children. Consider this: it is no coincidence that, as the world leader in the care of children, Sweden has managed to stay out of war for almost 200 years, and its homicide rate is amongst the lowest in the world.(4) This is an incredibly enviable state of affairs, but one that is demonstrably within the reach of any country that chooses to put its resources and political will firmly behind improved nurturance, protection and education of parents and children.
Because it has been such a successful measure, the Swedish legislation banning the corporal punishment of children both at home and at school has now been imitated in 13 other countries, and proposals for controls on hitting are under discussion in several more countries.(5)
(1)McFarland R (1999) ‘Peace on earth, goodwill toward children’Â Journal of Psychohistory Vol 27(2) pp 200-211
(2)Durrant JE (1999a) A Generation Without Smacking: The impact of Sweden’s Ban on Physical Punishment Save The Children, London
(3) DurrantJEÂ (1999b) ‘Evaluating the success of Sweden’s corporal punishment ban’ Child Abuse and Neglect Vol 23(5) pp 435-448, and Durrant JE (2000) ‘Trends in youth-crime and wellbeing since the abolition of corporal punishment in Sweden’ Youth&Society Vol 31(4) pp 437-455
(4) See Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2002)
(5) Keeley LH (1996)Â War Before Civilisation-The Myth of the Peaceful Savage Oxford University Press, New York p32.
(6) See The Center for Effective Discipline http://www.stophitting.com/law/legalReform.php (last accessed 1 December 2004), and End All Corporal Punishment of Children http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/ (last accessed 1 december 2004)
The above text is an extract from the book ‘Parenting for a Peaceful World’ by Robin Grille.