Cultural Differences: Chastisement & Assault

17th June 2015 Family Law

The way that parents choose to discipline their children can vary from one family to another. When we consider the measures which some people used to keep their sons and daughters in line, the differences can seem even more pronounced.

What, then, of the attitudes and approaches of foreign cultures?

According to one High Court judge, rather than seeking to take action against immigrants accused of slapping or hitting their children, police and social services in the UK should make allowances because of their 'different cultural context'.

The comments of Mrs Justice Pauffley have attracted criticism due to their apparent conflict with the rules limiting what parents already living in this country are entitled to do.

Legislation which has been in force for a decade the Children Act - means that parents whose chastisement of their children exceeds what is rather vaguely described as 'reasonable punishment' risk being jailed for up to five years.

Leaving a bruise, a cut or causing a swelling is unlawful. Using a belt, as the father in this week's High Court case was alleged to have done, would certainly be construed as having gone much too far. It's not difficult, therefore, to see why the High Court case has agitated some people.

The children's charity, the NSPCC, has campaigned to try and shift the threshold at which action can be taken even lower, removing even 'reasonable punishment' as an option.

For others, the central issue is not about what might be considered excessive parenting but whether everyone living in the UK regardless of whether here on a permanent basis or not should have to stick to the same rules of behaviour. Leaving aside those respective positions, I believe that there is a third dimension to matters of this nature.

How fathers and mothers raise their children is a regular feature of the work which I and my colleagues in JMW's Family department have to deal with.

Highlighting a perceived inability can, unfortunately, become a way of scoring points against a partner when a relationship is breaking down, suggesting that someone is either slack or not very nice.

It is ironic that whilst the manner in which discipline is applied becomes one means by which adults attack each other, it can merely serve to show how parents are more unruly in dealing with their own problems than the children whose supposed bad behaviour might have warranted being addressed in the first place.

To discuss this or any other family related issues please do get in contact.

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Holly Tootill is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Family department

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