Distinguishing Physical Punishment from Physical Abuse: Implications for Professionals

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Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal, Issue 16, pp. 43-51.

Currently in Canada, the physical punishment of children is permitted by law, yet its social undesirability continues to grow. As a result, many professionals struggle with advising parents about this practice and with drawing a distinction between physical punishment and physical abuse. The three commonly used criteria for demarcating abuse - physical injury, parental intent, and social norms - are examined. It is suggested that unambiguous messages about the risk of harm associated with the use of physical punishment should be provided by professionals to better protect children and support parents.

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