Cultural issues in child maltreatment

J Paediatr Child Health. Jan 2012 48(1): 30–37

Cultural issues in child maltreatment

Raman S, Hodes D


Aims:  Waves of immigration from the latter half of the 20th century have changed the cultural and ethnic mix of major regions of the world. Dynamic multicultural societies now are a reality across the Western world. The relationship and influence of these diverse cultures to the understanding and identification of child abuse and neglect is challenging and complex. Health professionals working with children from culturally and linguistically diverse groups often find themselves with the challenge of exploring and resolving the tension between definitions of harm in child protection practice and various cultural and child-rearing practices. In this paper, we set out ways of thinking about the influence of culture when approaching and dealing with the suspicion of child maltreatment.

Methods:  We will explore how culture shapes the experiences of childhood, child-rearing practices, and identify common barriers in working with children and families from culturally diverse backgrounds when presenting with child maltreatment. We will use case examples from Europe and Australia to illustrate the real life challenges of working in the area of child maltreatment across cultures. We will review the scientific literature exploring the nexus between culture and child maltreatment, identifying the gaps in the literature and highlight areas for future research.

Results:  We suggest a model for dealing with cultural issues in child maltreatment that is culturally competent and respectful.

Conclusions:  The model for cultural competency in child health and child protective services incorporates four domains for advocacy and action – individual, professional, organisational and systemic.

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