Canadians Divided on Physically Disciplining Children

Three-in-four agree with parents using “reasonable force”, but fewer think schoolteachers should be able to do the same.

Canadians are of two minds when it comes to the use of force to correct children, even if the Criminal Code makes no distinction between parents and schoolteachers, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative sample of Canadians, three-in-four respondents (74%) agree with allowing parents to physically discipline children in Canada.

When asked whether schoolteachers should be allowed to physically discipline children in Canada, only 43% of respondents agree, while half (50%) disagree.

“There is a sizeable gender gap on this issue,” says Mario Canseco, President at Research Co. “While half of men (51%) have no problem with physical punishment in the classroom, more than half of women (55%) disagree.”

Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada reads: “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.”

Several countries around the world, including Denmark, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Sweden, have adopted laws that forbid physical punishment towards children, either by parents or schoolteachers.

In Canada, Bill S-206—introduced by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette—seeks to remove the justification in the Criminal Code available to schoolteachers, parents and persons standing in the place of parents of using force as a means of correction toward a pupil or child under their care.

When asked whether it’s time to abolish the legislation that allows schoolteachers and parents to use “reasonable force” to discipline children in Canada, one third of Canadians (34%) agree, but a majority (53%) disagree.

More than three quarters of Canadians (77%) report that they were physically disciplined as children by a parent or guardian—including 89% of Albertans, 84% of Conservative Party voters in the 2015 federal election and 83% of Canadians aged 55 and over.

Three-in-ten Canadians (31%) say they were physically disciplined as children by a schoolteacher. Canadians aged 55 and over are more likely to say a schoolteacher physically punished them (54%) than those aged 35-to-54 (21%) and those aged 18-to-34 (17%).

Results are based on an online study conducted from May 7 to May 11, 2018, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.1 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.

Find our full data set here and download the press release here. 

For more information on this poll, please contact:
Mario Canseco, President, Research Co.

Photo Credit: Thelmadatter.