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Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Aug;24(8):1027-35.

Changing public attitudes towards corporal punishment: the effects of statutory reform in Sweden.

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Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



One justification for a statutory ban on physical punishment is that passage of such legislation changes public attitudes towards the use of this form of parental discipline. The experience in Sweden is often cited as an example of legislation which changed public opinion. The aim of this brief article is to review the public opinion findings in Sweden in order to evaluate in greater detail the impact of changing the law.


A search was conducted to generate all published and publicly-available quantitative surveys of the public in Sweden and elsewhere.


The results of time-series analysis of the data are clear. The 1979 legal reform in Sweden did not reduce the level of public support for parental use of corporal punishment as a means of disciplining children. Support for physical punishment began declining years before the reform was passed and the decline was in no way accelerated by the law reform. Changes in public opinion may have generated the legal reform, but the reverse is not true. Data from other jurisdictions also support the view that there is no relationship between the status of the law and the nature of public views with regard to corporal punishment. This result is consistent with analyses of the effects of legal reforms in other areas.


The Swedish ban on corporal punishment did not affect public attitudes. Changing public views requires other initiatives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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