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The impact of disciplinary practices of children

Child Disciplinary Practices at Home
UN experts call for better data and research on violence against children

NEW YORK, 15 October 2010 - At a special event held at the United Nations Headquarters today, UN experts called for better data and research on violence against children in order to strengthen government action for prevention and response to violence and to support legal prohibitions.

The interactive panel discussion focussed on the theme of promoting better data and research to inform child sensitive and effective laws, policies and action highlighted new evidence about children's exposure to physical punishment and psychological aggression.

The event was organised by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, UNICEF and OHCHR, and supported by the Government of Sweden.

Culture of silence

Panelists included senior representatives of the Governments of Brazil and Sweden, an NGO partner, Plan International, as well as representatives of the joint organisers of the special event.

“Too often violence against children remains hidden behind a pervasive culture of silence,” said Marta Santos-Pais, Special Representative on Violence Against Children. “Without good data, national planning is compromised, effective policy-making and resource mobilisation are hampered, and targeted interventions are limited in their ability to prevent and combat violence against children”.

The event highlighted new evidence about children's exposure to violence in low- and middle-income countries. The preliminary findings of a new UNICEF report on Child Disciplinary Practices at Home reveal that three in four of all children surveyed experience some form of violent discipline, about half experience some form of physical punishment and three in four experience psychological aggression.

Negative impacts on childhood

“Most violence that is inflicted upon children is committed in the home – and thus tends to be hidden,” said UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Susan Bissell. “This report seeks to bring the extent of violent disciplinary practices out of the shadows to promote positive disciplinary practices and participatory forms of child-rearing.”

Existing studies suggest that exposing a child to violent discipline has harmful consequences for the victim as well as the society in which he or she lives. They show that even mild forms of physical discipline are harmful to children, hindering their cognitive capacity and increasing the proclivity for future violent acts.

Violent psychological discipline – including ridicule, threats and intimidation – has also been shown to have a range of negative behavioural impacts in childhood and beyond.

No justification for violence

The Convention on the Rights of the Child leaves no room for justification of violent or degrading forms of discipline, yet the preliminary findings of the report show a discrepancy exists between attitudes and behaviours. Although physical punishment is widespread, in most countries the majority of primary caregivers do not think there is a need for it. On average only one in four caregivers believe that physical punishment is needed to properly bring up a child.

The report is an important step towards providing evidence, but there remains a need to strengthen data collection and research on violence against children to inform advocacy, national planning, legislation and policy making, including interventions challenging the social acceptance of violence against children.

“A comprehensive, well coordinated and resourced national strategy to address violence against children in all its forms needs to be implemented in all countries and grounded on sound data and analysis,” added Ms. Santos-Pais.



Get on Board. Stop Child Abuse
The adage that ignorance is bliss could not be farther from the truth, particularly in the context of child abuse. Knowledge is the key to our success. It gives us the power to govern ourselves, our households, and ultimately our communities. "Get on Board" is a "peoples' campaign" by UNICEF to provide the Malaysian public with the knowledge, insights and resources to stop child abuse. The digitally-driven campaign, a first by UNICEF in the region, aims to unite 100,000 supporters to raise their hand in support of children. We hope everyone will embrace this campaign as their own, and support and promote it in their own unique ways to ensure a safe and protected childhood for every child in Malaysia. Visit Get on Board campaign

For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Fordham
UNICEF Media, New York
Tel + 1 212 326-7162,

Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 292 6872,

Juana Jaafar
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel + 6012 530 9693,





Say No to Violence Against Children

UN violence study

 • UN World Report
 • Expert report to UN

Get on Board! website

  •  Media Centre

Behind Closed Doors

Child Protection: Malaysia

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