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Domestic CP - December 2007

Corpun file 19898


The Guardian, London, 7 December 2007

French parents back smacking, survey shows

By Emilie Boyer King in Paris

Most French children are used to the odd spank from their parents, and many think there is nothing wrong with that, a new survey suggests.

An internet poll by the Paris-based Union of Families in Europe (UFE), an organisation which defends families' rights in France, shows that 65% of children in France think la fessée - French for a smack on the bottom - is a normal part of their upbringing, with more than half thinking they deserve it.

Spanking is certainly central in a French education if the survey is anything to go by. An overwhelming majority (more than 95%) of the 2,000 grandparents, parents, and children polled said they had been spanked at some point in their lives.

Punishing a child with a fessée does not seem to be a generation thing. A nationwide poll carried out nearly 10 years ago revealed that more than 85% of French parents spanked their children - compared with 87 % in the new survey.

The UFE's Dominique Marcilhacy says it is a cultural difference between France and the UK. "We are Latin people, and so we're much more physical. And we don't have the same past as other countries like the UK for example, where there used to be sticks in schools."

Unlike some other European countries such as Austria, Germany and Denmark, there is no specific legislation against corporal punishment for children in France.

"I don't know why France, which went through the age of enlightenment and which abolished the death penalty, is so backwards and doesn't want to bring in a law on this issue," said Jacqueline Cornet, a retired GP and child psychiatrist. "Spanking is bad as it frightens the child, and blocks its education process."

While la fessée may still be popular in France, other forms of corporal punishment, such as a slap on the cheek or a kick are rarely used and are considered dangerous by many parents, the survey showed. And the old-fashioned martinet, a small whip used by grandparents in the old days, is definitely on its way out.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

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