Corporal punishment common in HK homes, Unicef survey finds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2008, 12:00am

Twenty-one per cent of children were beaten by their parents in the past year, a Unicef survey has found.

Some 28 per cent had been scolded by their parents and 10 per cent had suffered negligence, the poll of 5,841 Primary Four to Secondary Seven pupils found.

The UN Children's Fund commissioned the University of Hong Kong's department of social work and social administration to conduct the survey last year.

Edward Chan Ko-ling, an assistant professor and the study's principal investigator, said corporal punishment was prevalent in Hong Kong. 'You may not see the harm [in using corporal punishment] right away, but the long-term trauma is obvious,' he said.

Professor Chan said children who received corporal punishment were often less self-confident, more emotional and had lower self-esteem than those who did not.

'Some parents say corporal punishment can help correct their kids' behavioural problems, but those who do not use it can also teach their kids to be well-behaved.'

Matthew Mo Nan-kit, executive director of the Hong Kong Committee for Unicef, urged the government to ban corporal punishment in the home. 'Many parents believe proper corporal punishment is okay, but how do you define 'proper'? Corporal punishment has already been banned in schools. Why can't we outlaw it at home as well?' he asked.

Professor Chan said he did not believe children would abuse their rights if corporal punishment by parents was made illegal.

'Children in general respect and love their parents. I am not worried that they would [abuse their rights],' he said.

Tam Kent-chung, 15, a Unicef young envoy, said: 'Any problem can be solved as long as there is communication [in the family].'

The Form Three pupil said he was pleased with his family life as he could always tell his parents what he was going through.

'My daddy and mummy will share their problems with me, too, and ask for my opinion,' he said.

The survey found that 53.4 per cent of respondents regarded their family as 'very child-friendly', meaning their families were supportive, respected their rights, gave them enough care and protection, and set a good example for them.

Happy families?

More than half of children described their families as 'very child-friendly'

The percentage who felt their families were 'very child-unfriendly' was 3.1%