Aims To report the types, frequency, and concordance of physical punishments employed by parents on their Pacific children at ages 1, 2, and 4 years.
Methods A cohort of Pacific infants born during 2000 in South Auckland, New Zealand, was followed. Separate home interviews that included questions about child discipline were undertaken at 1-year, 2-years, and 4-years postpartum for mothers, and 1-year and 2-years postpartum for fathers. Results Maternal interviews were completed from 1224, 1144, and 1048 mothers and 825 and 757 fathers respectively. Over these measurement waves, the prevalence of smacking was 21.5%, 52.0%, and 77.1% for mothers and 24.4% and 78.4% for fathers, while the prevalence of hitting with an object (such as a spoon or belt) was 0.2%, 6.6%, and 24.3% for mothers and 1.3% and 13.2% for fathers. There was poor statistical agreement in physical punishment administered between mothers and fathers, and significant asymmetry with fathers more likely to employ harsher punishment than mothers.
Conclusions Smacking is a widespread form of discipline administered to Pacific children, and hitting with objects is common. If the use of objects constitutes a consequential assault in the newly ratified Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 then many parents within this cohort are in breach of this law. We believe that guidelines for corporal punishment which is legally acceptable needs to be made explicit to all, and widespread culturally sensitive efforts to teach parents positive parent management strategies is urgently required.