Intimate partner violence is indisputably a crisis in Australia.
State and federal governments have invested heavily in family violence prevention.
However, one area of violence prevention has until now been overlooked. A growing body of research has found a consistent link between experiencing corporal punishment from a parent – in the form of smacking – as a type of violence, and those children going on to be involved in partner violence in adulthood.
Watch: Women and Violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues below.
I reviewed this literature, as well as the prevalence, frequency and severity of corporal punishment practices in Australia.
I found Australian policymakers have an opportunity to further strengthen partner violence prevention strategies by legislating against the legal defence of reasonable chastisement of children in the states and territories.
In other words, ban smacking.
While there is a strong link between being abused as a child and growing up to become involved in partner violence, smacking has historically been considered relatively innocuous.
However, emerging research has found smacking has a similar effect on a child’s brain to that of abuse, in that the stress and fear it provokes can cause changes to some neurotransmissions.
It is more likely to lead to alcohol misuse, depression and anti-social and aggressive behaviours, which may in turn be antecedents to partner violence.
Prominent researchers have built a solid case for including corporal punishment as an Adverse Childhood Experience, a range of childhood experiences known to cause toxic stress linked to adversity in adulthood.