One in five children in Switzerland suffers severe corporal punishment at the hands of their parents, a study has shown. Among the most affected: children from poorer and migrant backgrounds.
The 20% figure is higher than the 13% revealed by a similar study carried out in Germany, said researcher Dirk Baierexternal link from the School of Social Work at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW).external link “Severe” corporal punishment was defined in the Swiss study as being hit with objects or fists, kicked, or beaten up.
Two in five children have been victims of “softer” forms of corporal punishment, like slaps or being pushed.
The figures were taken from interim results of an ongoing study on terrorism, which involved surveying 10,000 young people aged 17 in Switzerland and included questions about their upbringing, Baier told swissinfo.ch. Around half of the young people have already responded to the survey. The results were made public at an event earlier this week and reported by the Aargauer Zeitungexternal link on Friday.
A closer look
Breaking the results down, it was clear that among native Swiss, the level of violence was actually similar to that of Germany, Baier said. The difference comes from migrant groups.
“There are some groups in Switzerland where up to 40% of children experienced severe corporal punishment from parents,” he said. This primarily concerned families from the Balkans, the study found, followed by Portugal (37%).
The family financial situation was also found to play a role: the rate of violence among parents on benefits or unemployment is twice as high as among parents who are not.
In addition, in some cultures, corporal punishment may be perceived as a normal part of child-rearing. This also used to be the attitude in Switzerland. Stress due to the status of being a migrant, may also play a role in higher levels of family violence.
The right of parents to use corporal punishment in disciplining their children was removed from Swiss law in 1978. But there is no outright ban in Switzerland, as there is in Germany.
The German ban, which came into force in 2000, has helped to raise awareness, Baier said.
There are also different migrant groups in Germany, said Baier, including a strong Turkish community. Progress has been made in Germany in getting the anti-violence message across to several migrant groups, said the researcher.
Sweden was the first country to banexternal link corporal punishment in 1979.
Baier said he would welcome any legal changes in Switzerland on the issue of parental violence. However, he added that a change in the law doesn’t necessarily translate to a change in behaviour.
“For me, personally, it would be a better option to ensure that the message about non-violent upbringing and the need for non-violent upbringing reaches the groups in question, through for example awareness campaigns.”