The Swedish Example ~ A Model for Reform
Al Crowell, Director of Christians for Non-Violent Parenting,
1920: At this time severe beatings were being given
to children in
Sweden often based on religious (Lutheran) influence. Legislators
a change in the law stating that parents should not punish children,
but rather reprimand them. However, the legal defense of parent's
to use corporal punishment remained in the law. In other words,
was illegal in the country except in the case of a parent against his
or her child.
1950: The legal defense of corporal punishment was removed
assault law. Therefore children now had the same rights, on the
as adults to be protected from assault. However, parents still
the right to use mild corporal reprimands, which were not considered
And state institutions could still use corporal punishment.
In 1959 something brilliant happened. Some group was able to
school institutions, staff, and administration to resist using corporal
punishment for one year as an experiment. After the year, reports
showed success without corporal punishment.
1960: Abolition of corporal punishment in public
1966: The paragraph giving parents the right to use light
corporal punishment was removed from the law.
1979: A high profile case of a father beating his
daughter and still winning the court case demonstrated that the law, as
written, was not enough to guarantee courts interpreting the current
law equally for children as it did for adults. Therefore a public
education campaign began which included a large exhibition on child
abuse in Stockholm which 60,000 people saw. Two things emerged
this campaign, 1) A commission was appointed to look into the present
law, and 2) Based on the commission's findings and review by thirty
experts, the following historic law was passed:
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
physical punishment or other injurious or humiliating treatment.
No penalties were attached to the law (except for assault).
would be helped with support and education. This aspect greatly
the law's passage.
The country printed and distributed pamphlets that outlined
for the law and alternative democratic means of gaining children's
compliance. These pamphlets were placed in all medical facilities
dealing with parents and children and in schools.
The law was printed on milk cartons for two months so that
families could discuss it over meals.
The law and pamphlet material was integrated into the
nation's ninth grade school curriculum, which covered child
Swedish public opinion shifts. Acceptance of
punishment steadily diminishes:
1. Poll results from 1965 - 1994
Answering "yes" to the following statements --
2. It was observed that Swedish parents were quite permissive in the
eighties after the law was passed and the educational campaign had
begun. However, by the nineties, that situation had been largely
corrected. Skilled democratic childrearing methods had evolved,
"Corporal punishment is sometimes necessary."
1965 - 53%
1968 - 42%
1971 - 35%
1981 - 26%
1994 - 11%
"Children should be brought up without corporal punishment."
1965 - 35%
1971 - 60%
The number of child abuse cases received by St. Goan's
Hospital in 1989 had fallen to one sixth the 1970 level, and Sweden had
one half the abuse rate, and one-third the child abuse-related fatality
rate as the U.S.
Reprinted by permission from the author. Based on The Swedish Ban on Corporal
Punishment: Its History and Effects by Joan
E. Durrant, Ph.D.