Wednesday, Apr 23rd

Last update12:26:35 PM GMT


Many adults think slapping has little impact on children

The Children’s Society asks Government to ban slapping of children completely

People are twice as worried about parents not knowing where their children are after 9pm than they are about the potentially damaging effects of slapping, research from The Children’s Society has revealed.

Slapping was put last in a list of people’s safety concerns about the parenting of children in the UK in a special study commissioned by the charity. The Children’s Society’s pioneering study follows heated public debate about the kind of risks children are exposed to by their parents. Little research has been done in the UK on these issues.

Over 2,000 people were asked to identify the biggest risks for children aged six to 15 years inherent in a number of different ‘scenarios’.

Some 77% said children were exposed to a high level of risk when parents did not know their whereabouts in the evening. Girls were more likely to be considered to be at high risk – 82% - than boys – 73%.
The same number was very alarmed about parents who failed to arrange medical help for children when they needed it (e.g. no trip to the dentist for those with persistent toothache). 45% saw this as very high risk.

Six out of ten said children ridiculed by parents were at risk of emotional trauma (e.g. called ‘stupid’ by their parents).

Half of those surveyed were worried about parents who ignored the emotional needs of their children, when they were upset by their friends.

At the same time, 47% thought isolating children and keeping them away from friends represented a high risk of harm.

Surprisingly, being slapped by parents as a standard punishment was only seen as a high risk by 33% (14% said it was ‘very high risk’).

The survey shows that people weigh up the risks associated with slapping children very differently from other threats to their safety. Thirty-two per cent think slapping has little impact on children and young people, while another third remain divided on the issue. Unusually, teenagers are thought to be at more risk of physical punishment than younger children (36% rated secondary school age children at high risk compared to 29% of primary age children).

Forty six per cent of far more older people (over 65) think slapping presents a low level of physical and emotional risk for children. This finding may point to a generational shift in opinions about acceptable parenting.

Letting a child play outdoors after 9pm on a summer’s evening without knowing where they are was seen as the highest risk in the survey, with 50% of respondents rating it as the highest possible level of risk.
Only one per cent saw supervisory neglect as ‘no risk at all’ as opposed to 16% who said the same about slapping.

Despite this, all the statistical evidence shows that children are hurt more in a family setting than outside the home. Acute fears about young people’s safety outside the home could possibly be exaggerated, The Children’s Society says.

“Children must be safeguarded from harm but this should also be balanced with the freedom to be themselves and to take some risks,” said Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society. “It is a question of balance. Young people consistently tell us that they need to be able to develop friendships, have fun and to play without adult supervision.”

“Physical violence is something children definitely need to be protected from. The survey revealed a worrying lack of concern by one third of people surveyed about parents slapping children. Children are the only group of people in this country who can be legally hit on a regular basis by others, with little protection in law.”

The UK is one of five EU countries holding out against an all-out ban on slapping. It has been criticised on multiple occasions for contravening Article 19 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Society is now calling on the new Government to fall in line with our European neighbours and ban the slapping of children completely.

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Research: Marriage doesn't lead to stable relationships between parents

Factors such as age, education, occupation and income more influential

Marriage per se does not contribute much to making relationships more stable when children are young, a new research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and funded by the Nuffield Foundation has revealed.

This finding casts doubt on the Government’s aim of promoting marriage in order to decrease the rate of parental separation.

The IFS analysis of data from the Millennium Cohort Study shows that while cohabiting parents are more likely to split up than married ones, there is little evidence that marriage per se is the cause of greater stability between parents, or that encouraging more people to get married would result in fewer couples splitting up.

Parents who are cohabiting when their child is born are three times more likely to split up by the time their child is five than married parents (27% compared to 9%). However they are also typically younger, less well off, less likely to own their own homes, have fewer educational qualifications and are less likely to plan their pregnancies than married people.

Once these differences between the two groups are accounted for, the difference in the likelihood of separation almost disappears (falling to 2 percentage points).

The IFS analysis shows that relationship stability is mainly determined not by marriage but by other factors such as age, education, occupation and income, and delaying and planning pregnancy.

These factors are also influential in whether people choose to marry or not. So while married couples have more stable relationships than couples who cohabit, this is not because they are married, but because of the other characteristics they have that lead to marriage.

“The evidence suggests that much of the difference in relationship stability between married and cohabiting parents is due to pre-existing differences between the kinds of people who get married before they have children, compared to those that cohabit,” said Ellen Greaves, research economist at the IFS.

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Maternal alcohol consumption may damage semen quality in sons

There is an association between drinking moderate amount of alcohol during pregnancy and lower sperm concentrations in sons

Mothers who drink alcohol while they are pregnant may be damaging the fertility of their future sons, a new research has revealed.

The research was recently presented at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome, Italy.

Doctors in Denmark found that if mothers had drunk 4.5 or more drinks a week while pregnant, then the sperm concentration of their sons, measured about 20 years later, was a third lower in comparison to men who were not exposed to alcohol while in the womb. A drink was measured as 12 grams of alcohol, which is the equivalent to one 330 ml beer, one small (120 ml) glass of wine or one glass of spirits (40 ml).

Dr. Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen, senior researcher at the Department of Occupational Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital (Denmark) and clinical associate professor at the Department of Epidemiology, Institute of Public Health, University of Aarhus, told a news briefing: “Our study shows that there is an association between drinking a moderate amount of alcohol (about four to five drinks a week) during pregnancy and lower sperm concentrations in sons. However, because this is an observational study we cannot say for certain that the alcohol causes the lower sperm concentrations. It is possible that drinking alcohol during pregnancy has a harmful effect on the foetal semen-producing tissue in the testes – and thereby on semen quality in later life – but our study is the first of its kind, and more research within this area is needed before any causal link can be established or safe drinking limits proposed.”

Dr. Ramlau-Hansen and her colleagues studied 347 sons of 11,980 women with singleton pregnancies who were recruited to the Danish “Healthy habits for two” study between 1984-1987. Around the 36th week of pregnancy the mothers answered a questionnaire on lifestyles and health. The sons were followed up between 2005-2006, when they were aged between 18-21, and semen and blood samples were collected and analysed.

The researchers divided the sons into four groups, ranging from those who were least exposed to alcohol (their mothers had drunk less than one drink a week) – and this was the reference group against which the other groups were measured – to those whose mothers drank 1-1.5 drinks a week, 2-4 drinks a week, or 4.5 or more drinks per week.

They found that sons of mothers drinking 4.5 or more alcoholic drinks a week had average sperm concentrations of 25 million per millilitre, while the sons who were least exposed to alcohol had sperm concentrations of 40 million/ml. After adjusting for various confounding factors, they found the sons in the group most exposed to alcohol had an average sperm concentration that was approximately 32% lower than that in the least exposed group.

The World Health Organization defines a “normal” level of sperm concentration as being approximately 20 million/ml or more. Dr. Ramlau-Hansen said: “The reduced sperm concentrations in the most exposed men are rather close to the lower end of the WHO’s normal range for fertility. The probability of conception increases with increased sperm concentration up to 40 million/ml and so it is possible that the most exposed men could be less fertile than the least exposed.”

She found that semen volume and total sperm count (which also affect a man’s fertility) were associated with prenatal alcohol exposure; these were highest in sons whose mothers drank 1-1.5 drinks a week. The researchers could find no association between alcohol exposure and the movement and shape of the sperm or with any reproductive hormones such as testosterone.

Dr. Ramlau-Hansen said: “Our finding that sons prenatally exposed to 1-1.5 drinks per week had higher semen volume and total sperm count compared to the least exposed group is not surprising and is quite a common finding when studying alcohol. It could indicate that small amounts of alcohol have a beneficial effect (for example, on the semen-producing tissue in the foetal testes), but, in fact, we believe this result may be biased by the characteristics of the women drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy or by inaccurate reporting of alcohol consumption. Therefore, it is not possible to draw a firm conclusion from this result.”

The researchers also investigated whether fathers’ alcohol consumption had any effect. “We investigated the association between fathers’ total alcohol intake and semen quality in the sons and found that paternal alcohol was not associated with semen volume or sperm concentration. This finding suggests that the observed associations between maternal alcohol consumption and sons’ semen quality are not confounded by lifestyle factors that are shared by a couple, such as smoking,” said Dr. Ramlau-Hansen.

She concluded: “If further research shows that maternal alcohol consumption is a cause of reduced semen concentration in male offspring, then we are a bit closer to an explanation of why semen quality may have decreased during the last decades and why it differs between populations. If exposure to alcohol in foetal life causes poor semen quality in adult life, we would expect that populations with many pregnant women drinking, possibly heavily, in pregnancy would have lower fertility in comparison with populations of where pregnant women do not drink.”

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Survey: Wives more likely to cheat on holiday than husbands

6% of cheaters have dared to cheat while on holiday with their spouse

Even when holidaying with their spouses, a new research from married dating site shows that most cheating Briton spouses are reluctant to give up their unfaithful ways.

The study of 800 men and 800 women revealed that 33% of cheating spouses have had an affair while on holiday, and 6% have dared to cheat while on holiday with their spouse. The majority of respondents expressed their wish to have an illicit holiday fling, although they had not done the deed yet.

The findings also indicated that married women are more likely to stray when holidaying with friends than married men; a sure surprise to those husbands who always saw their wives’ girly getaways in an innocent light.

While 16% of the site’s female membership said they had been unfaithful whilst abroad with friends, only 11% of men admitted the same.

In addition, 63% of cheaters said they would prefer to holiday with their illicit lover, as opposed to their married partner. Just 18% felt they wanted to get away with their husband or wife. The study also found that an overwhelming majority of philandering spouses would choose the Maldives over any destination for an illicit liaison (27%).

“Sunshine is a real aphrodisiac,” says Sara Hartley, representative at “We have always seen an increase in activity on the site during the summer months, so it strikes me as no surprise that wives and husbands who cheat at home would struggle to stay faithful while abroad. For men, the sight of all those scantily clad beach bunnies may prove too tempting, and we know, from our female members, that waiters in particular tend to oblige when it comes to innocent, and not-so-innocent, flirting.”

In a blow for families, male cheaters appear to be happier to spend more on taking their lover abroad than their wife and kids. found the average male member spends between £2500 and £3000 on a holiday with his mistress. In comparison, Tesco Finance found that the average family holiday spend is around £2,076. The majority of female members on IE would choose to go Dutch with their lover.

Jenny (name changed to protect her identity), 34, from Shropshire, describes her experience of adultery abroad: “I had only been married for four years, and although things were less exciting at home, I never expected that I would cheat on holiday. A group of single friends and I went to Spain last August, and while we were there, the three of them frequently bought men back to the hotel. However, on the last night, I met an ex-pat Londoner at a local bar, and we got drunk together. I just didn’t wish to deny myself the excitement; it all happened very quickly, but it was so exhilarating to feel that freedom again. I have no intention of telling my spouse; I joined the site straight afterwards and have had several extramarital affairs here at home.” was set up in 2003 to provide a platform for married people to find lovers.

Travelsex: Guide to safe sex during holidays

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Celebrity Chef Gizzi Erskine's recipe: Tuna, and caponata salad

'Bring Back Britain's Lunch Hour' campaign

Tuna, and caponata salad

Serves 4
Preparation time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins

2 x 5cm thick spankingly fresh tuna steaks or sashimi loin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large aubergine, chopped into uniform 1 cm cubes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
250g cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
150g kalamata olives stoned
30g capers in vinegar
handful basil leaves, shredded
a small bag of rocket
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
capers for serving.

Heat the oil in a frying pan until really hot. Season the tuna steaks with salt and pepper then sear them all over for 20 seconds on each side until the meat is fairly dark on the outside and really rare in the middle. Remove and leave to rest for one hour in the freezer until it firms up and is almost frozen (a restaurant trick that will make it easier to slice). Technically you need to let things cool before popping them into the fridge or freezer but as this meat has simply been seared it should not be too warm. Use your own instincts though – if you think it needs to cool a little before freezing then feel free to do so.

Heat half the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the aubergine, then cook for 8-10 mins until brown and soft. Tip into a colander over a bowl. Fry the onions and peppers for 6-8 minutes until starting to soften.

Tip any oil from the bowl back into the pan and top it up with a splash of fresh oil. Fry the tomatoes and the crushed garlic together. Sprinkle the sugar over, splash in the vinegar, then cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes start to release their juice.

Tip the aubergine, onion and peppers back in. Scatter in the olives, capers and basil, then give everything a good stir. Cook for 5 mins until simmering, then season to taste. Turn off the heat, drizzle in the rest of the oil, then set aside to cool for this salad.

Dress the rocket leaves in the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning.

To serve slice the tuna really thinly and lay out onto a plate. Top with some cold Caponata salad and some dressed rocket leaves and maybe scatter over a few more capers.

By celebrity Chef Gizzi Erskine

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