Inadequate supervision or inadequate sensitivity to cultural differences in parenting? Exploring cross-cultural rates of neglect in an Australian sample
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One unexpected finding from the postdoctoral fellowship I conducted on the needs and experiences of ethnic minority families in the New South Wales (NSW) child protection system in Australia, was that reports of inadequate supervision seemed high compared to their Anglo-Australian counterparts. The aim of this article was to explore this finding further. This article argues that cultural differences between individualist and collectivist cultures (which families from ethnic minority backgrounds tend to be) contribute to the differential rates of prevalence in reports of neglect. Specifically, the greater role of extended family and community in sharing parenting responsibilities (and thus the inferred reduced care from primary caregivers) and the responsibility levels of children at younger ages (and thus the inferred lack of capacity to self-care) may be contributing to reports of neglect in families from collectivist backgrounds. However, this article also argues that collectivist values that influence what is seen to be adequate parental supervision are not, in the main, harmful (especially if it is the only report for a family) because they do not normalize or perpetuate risk of harm to children. The sample size in this study is small and so caution should be exercised. Nevertheless, this article highlights that caseworkers should be careful not to mislabel the behaviours of parents from collectivist backgrounds as neglectful, because to do so is to use one standard of parenting by which to judge all families and the problems with an absolutist approach to child protection are well known indeed.
Qualitative Social Work
© 2013 SAGE Publications. This is the author-manuscript version of the paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.
Clinical Social Work Practice