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A new study finds that spanking children at an early age can negatively impact child development for years to come. Here’s how. USA TODAY

Scotland on Thursday became the first country in the United Kingdom to outlaw spanking and other physical punishment for children.

The bill will “give children the same legal protection from assault that adults currently enjoy,” says John Finnie, a member of the Scottish Parliament who introduced the bill.

The bill passed by 84 votes to 29.

At least 57 other countries already ban child corporal punishment, with Sweden becoming the first to do so, in 1979, according to the BBC.

Adults and caregivers before could use “reasonable” physical force as punishment, the British broadcaster reported.

“I hope that Scotland will take this opportunity and then it can say with some justification that it’s the best place for a child to be brought up,” Finnie told the British Press Association before the vote. 

Pediatricians group: Ban spanking

Scottish law now bans all forms of physical punishment, including smacking, kicking, shaking, throwing or scratching children, among other forms of assault, according to the BBC.

In practice, Scottish law allowed some hitting or smacking of children under 16 on their bodies, but did not allow hitting on their heads or shaking, the BBC reported.

Opponents of the Scottish bill, however, said it will unnecessarily criminalize otherwise good parents.

“Seeking to further the protection of children is highly commendable, but a smacking ban is not the way to do it,” Jamie Gillies, from the opposition group Be Reasonable, told reporters before the vote. “The government should invest in current services, which are already hard-pressed, and bolster their ability to identify and tackle abuse.”

Physical punishment for children can lead to behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional problems, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a 2018 policy statement that advises parents against physical and verbal abuse of children

Spanking’s harm to children: Another top group calls for spanking ban

In February, the American Psychological Association also called for a ban to spanking because of short- and long-term harm to children.

“The research on the adverse outcomes associated with physical discipline indicates that any perceived short-term benefits of physical discipline do not outweigh the detriments of this form of discipline,” the group said in its Resolution on Physical Discipline of Children By Parents.

Effective in 1990, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child calls on member states to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence.” The United Kingdom has ratified the convention.

Study: More than 160,000 students in 19 states are victims of corporal punishment

In the United States, which signed the UN Convention but didn’t ratify it, corporal punishment is still allowed in home and in schools in some states, according to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

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