THE majority of parents in Ireland have slapped their children but most don't find it effective and would support a total ban.
New research has shown a big shift in Irish people's attitudes towards corporal punishment of children.
A survey for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and the Children's Rights Alliance found that 57pc of Irish people are now in favour of a ban on slapping children.
That's up from just 42pc five years ago showing there's been a sea-change in attitudes, the organisations said.
They are calling on the Government to follow the example of 16 other EU countries by finally making it illegal to slap children in Ireland.
Currently, while corporal punishment is outlawed in schools and creches, a moderate and "reasonable" level of chastisement is permitted in the home which campaigners said is open to abuse.
The report found that 62pc of parents in Ireland have slapped their children at some stage – though only 1pc did so frequently, with most having done so rarely.
However, three-quarters of adults do not believe it is an effective method of discipline.
In fact, parents were much more likely to use other forms of discipline, with incentives for good behaviour the preferred method of 80pc of people, followed by withdrawal of privileges and toys.
Timeouts such as the naughty step were used by 61pc of parents and were particularly popular for children under five, while half of parents used grounding as a means to discipline teenagers.
The survey of over 1,000 adults was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes, and researcher David McCarthy said the results were broadly consistent even among older people.
ISPCC director of services Caroline O'Sullivan said international research was overwhelming that slapping children was harmful to their physical, emotional and mental well-being.
"It is ineffective and has innumerable negative effects such as increased aggression in children, increased anti-social behaviour and damage to the parent-child relationship," she said.
A review of 150 different studies found absolutely no evidence of it being beneficial in any way, she said.
Tanya Ward of the Children's Rights Alliance said that in countries where a ban was introduced it did not result in huge numbers of parents being dragged through the courts, but brought about a huge shift in attitudes which resulted in parents self-policing their behaviour.
The Government had dragged its heels on this, saying a ban was not necessary, but in other countries it had been very effective.
The survey also found that two-thirds of adults believed there wasn't enough information available to parents relating to alternative methods of disciplining children.
The ISPCC said this showed the need for educational programmes to help parents.
Asked if it would introduce a ban on slapping children, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs said its own research indicated less than 1pc of parents smacked their children regularly.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald refused to say if she would introduce an outright ban on smacking, insisting such a move was still "under review".
She said it was clear the approach of parents was "moving in the right direction".
"We'll keep it under review. There are constitutional issues with the role of the family and the independence of privacy in the family. I think culturally we've changed so much about it anyway but it is something I can consider," she said.
"The reality is that Irish parents have changed completely in their attitude to physical punishment. All of the research reports suggest that it is rarely used by parents now. In fact the vast majority of parents, however they're interacting with children, it's not by smacking."