Steve, you wondered over our history; with the Vikings, the brutal robbers, traveling around the world frightening the life out of people... And now the change to the so seemingly peaceful Swedes..."Corporal punishment was first banned in the Swedish grammar schools in 1927.
Similar legislation was passed for elementary schools in 1958 and banned totally in 1962 in the Education Act. By 1966, parents and those responsible for children were forbidden from hitting their children.
A corporal ban Ten years later, a decision in a court case concerning a father assaulting his three-year-old daughter was widely discussed. The case initiated a number of private member´s bills in the Swedish parliament concerning the need for an explicit prohibition of chastisement, but it wasn’t until 1979 that the Swedish Parliament adopted a bill, with 256 MPs voting for and 6 MPs voting against. The arguments against were that the proposal was unnecessary and even dangerous.
By removing the rights for parents to chastise the child, many well-meaning parents would be stamped as criminals and many children would never learn to behave. But one of the MPs said; 'In a free democracy like our own, we use words as arguments, not blows. We talk to people and do not beat them. If we can´t convince our children with words, we shall never convince them with violence'.
This has become a rather famous statement in Sweden and one, of which it is not very easy to oppose. The ban is now an act within Chapter 6 in the Parenthood and Guardianship Code, which expressively forbids physical punishment and degrading treatment. 'Children are entitled to care, security and a good upbringing. Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment.'
The Criminal Code The Code of Parenthood and Guardianship in which one finds the law against chastising children is a civil law as opposed to the Criminal code. This means that the prohibition to use corporal punishment is not in itself sanctioned. It´s the Criminal Code that decides whether or not an offence has been committed, but also that it is judged under the same rules which apply when adults commits acts of physical violence to adults or other people´s children.
The Criminal Code states that anyone who causes another person physical injury, illness or pain or other harmful condition is to be convicted to a fine or prison up to two years. (Up to ten years if the crime is to be considered as severe, for example if the victim is a child).
When comparing figures from other countries, including the Nordic countries, we find that corporal punishment towards children is lower in Sweden. This seems above all to concern less serious and average forms of corporal punishment whilst more serious forms, such as blows with a blunt object may still be as common as in other Nordic countries.
Shifts in attitude We know that there has been a shift in attitude and opinion in Sweden on corporal punishment and that it started even before the law was effective. The Swedish Institute for Statistics has regularly investigated attitudes in the population towards corporal punishment.
In 1965, 53% were positive towards corporal punishment of children, 1968-42%, 1971-35%, 1981-26% and 1994-11%.
Hence, today in Sweden probably less than 10% are positive to the use of corporal punishment. The younger population is much less in favour of using physical punishment than elder generations. This shows that the ban is widely supported and well known in Sweden even amongst young children.
In 1979, a special brochure was sent out to every household in the country, explaining the anti spanking ban and how to bring up children with other methods than physical punishment. The brochure was translated into several different languages.
Statistics prove that corporal punishment as a way of upbringing has substantially decreased. When comparing figures in interviews with parents between the years 1980 and 2000, the results show, that corporal punishment has decreased significantly, especially in regard to striking a child with ones fist, with a blunt object or giving the child a so called 'good hiding'.
The figures are in accordance with results from two other studies on intermediate-level pupils and twenty year-olds submitted by the Parliamentary Committee against Abuse towards Children. This means, that forceful corporal punishment, which may potentially harm the child, also has decreased significantly.
On the other hand, concerning serious and unusual forms of corporal punishment, such as threats or the use of knives or firearms, the level shows no decrease. One reason could be, that malignant forms of corporal punishment, most often is part of a strong deviant behaviour in the adult as a result of mental illness or a case of abnormality or flaw in the character- personality features which are probably very little affected by general changes of attitude in society.
Uncertainty As more and more people tend to report child abuse, it has become somewhat confusing as to whether child abuse in Sweden in reality has increased during the last decades. We know that much of the violence, which was 'invisible' in the past, now has come out into the open, but thanks to education, information about the anti-spanking law and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, awareness has increased in society concerning children’s needs and violence towards children.
Today, institutions like schools and day-care centres including professional groups, which come into contact with children, have a mandatory obligation to report if they consider that a child is at risk and in need of support from the social welfare system. The conclusion therefore, is that the increase of reports of child abuse is an effect of increased awareness, rather than an increase of actual violence towards children.
Complex area This is a complex area that has to be put in its right context. The issue of child abuse and neglect is not only relevant to changes in legislation, but also to the changes in society that have occurred, during more than twenty years of existing legislation.
There are groups of children who are deprived and in vulnerable situations and families where child abuse and neglect is more or less a constant element. These kinds of families will probably occur in any society regardless of corporal punishment bans."
No, Sweden hasn't been in war the last 200 years as Dennis pointed out... But we are said to be more suicidal than many other people. I don't know if this is true actually. But if so, why?
Things I think are grounded in child-rearing-practices. Are we more self-blaming? More prone to self-blame, what Ingeborg Bosch calls the Primary defence?
And the truth about the Vikings?? Somewhere I had a feeling they weren’t quite as brutal, or that only some were. So I searched on this when you mentioned it, but haven’t had time to o more of it. At the Historiska Museum in Stockholm site http://www.historiska.se/home/exhibitions/vikings/ it stands:
In this program http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/vikings/ they talk about“The Vikings are possibly best known as brutal robbers. Today there are many pictures and stories about the Vikings. They describe how they travelled around the world frightening the life out of people. This is not the true story of the Vikings.
The Vikings were mostly peaceful traders. However, most of the people who lived in the Nordic Countries during this period were not Vikings. They were farmers, hunters and craftsmen. The exhibition does include weapons, but it also includes thousands of objects which give a different picture, telling the story of everyday activities, religious beliefs and family life.”
“…a new, less barbarian image of the Norsemen based on recent archaeological investigations.”
Two more sites about the Vikings; The Viking Museum in Lofoten, Norway, http://www.lofotr.no/engelsk/index.htm and “Vikings – the North Atlantic Saga”.http://www.mnh.si.edu/vikings/start.html“Who Were the Vikings? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/vikings/who.html
For centuries—indeed, ever since Viking raiders savagely attacked England's Lindisfarne monastery in A.D. 793—the Vikings have seemed to many to have been little more than blue-eyed barbarians in horned helmets. But archeological investigations of Viking sites stretching from Russia to Newfoundland have revealed a more human (if not altogether humane) side to the Viking character./…/
William Fitzhugh, curator in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, says the Vikings were far from simply brutish barbarians in horned helmets.”