Smacking children should be illegal, say doctors

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians will today seek an amendment to legislation to protect children from physical punishment.

It is currently legal for parents to use "reasonable" corporal punishment to discipline children. However, the president of the college's paediatrics and child health division, Associate Professor Susan Moloney, says such punishment may lead to abuse.

"We know that a significant number of child homicides are the result of physical punishment which went wrong," Professor Moloney told Fairfax and News Limited.

There is also evidence that depression, anxiety, aggression, antisocial behaviour and substance abuse can result from physical punishment, doctors say.

Professor Moloney said legislation already existed to protect children with pool fencing and from cigarette smoke in cars, while people can be arrested for hitting their dog, but not for hitting their child.

Child psychologist Michael Carr