Protection of Children from Physical Maltreatment in Canada: Evaluation of the Supreme Court’s Definition of Reasonable Force

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Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp. 64-87.

Durrant, Joan E.
Trocmé, Nico
Fallon, Barbara
Milne, Cheryl
Black, Tara

Journal article
Canadian CW research

The Canadian Criminal Code (1985) in section 43 allows parents to physically punish their children according to seven criteria: the punishment is “administered by a biological parent”; that the child is between two and twelve years of age; that the child is capable of learning from the punishment; that the act is minor in nature; that it does not involve an object; it is not coercive; and that “it is not degrading, inhuman or harmful” (p.67).

Durrant et al. evaluated the validity of section 43 by operationalizing six of the seven criteria outlined above and applying the criteria to the 2003 Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS-2003). The authors found that the criteria defining section 43 made up the majority of CIS-2003 substantiated child physical maltreatment cases. Commonly the perpetrator of physical maltreatment was a parent, the case involved a child that was between ages two and twelve, and the case involved non minor force involving a weapon. The authors also examined the use of spanking among parents as it related to substantiation of physical maltreatment to find that it was the second best predictor of substantiation. These findings, according to the authors, support the abolishment of legislation in support of physical punishment and illuminate the arbitrary nature of the current limits set out by section 43.

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