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Child Abuse and Neglect: The Cultural Context (From The Battered Child, P 23-41, 1987, Ray E Helfer and Ruth S Kempe, eds. -- See NCJ-111195)

NCJ Number
J E Korbin
Date Published
19 pages
A cross-cultural perspective of child abuse and neglect challenges ethnocentric beliefs about what is good for children or what is abusive and neglectful, and it furthers knowledge of the circumstances under which child abuse and neglect are most likely to occur and most likely to be prevented.
If abusive and neglectful behavior toward children is to be understood, a wider range of human cultural adaptation than that afforded by Western industrialized nations must be studied. This requires the structuring of definitional issues into a coherent framework that permits the identification of child abuse and neglect within and across cultural contexts. Three levels of distinction are necessary for culturally appropriate definitions of child maltreatment: cultural differences in child rearing practices, idiosyncratic departure from the cultural continuum of acceptable behavior, and societal harm to children. The growing international literature on child abuse and neglect indicates that these phenomena are more likely to occur under some circumstances than others, regardless of national boundaries. A discussion of social support, cultural sanctioning of physical discipline, and categories of vulnerable children illustrate the utility of the cross-cultural record in identifying child abuse factors. 127 references.