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Keywords:

  • child abuse;
  • policy;
  • professional opinion;
  • public opinion;
  • culture

Abstract

There are cultural variations in childcare and socialisation practices, and actions considered abuse in one culture may be acceptable in others. The extent to which children's rights are regarded as such within their own cultures as well as by governments may vary greatly. Moreover, there is a tendency for the public to make allowances for the intentions and circumstances of child abusers, at least in less severe or obvious cases or where the actions in question are socially sanctioned. However, there are also many professions involved in prevention or remediation of child abuse, or in the implementation of policies on children generally. Medicine, law, education and the social services are especially relevant here. Professionals in these areas could be expected by virtue of their training and experience to bring to their grasp of abuse issues a dimension that transcends cultural variation. Evidence from the literature and from two Singapore studies is used to explore the possibility that many professionals may retain attitudes to child maltreatment that reflect their culture rather than any transcultural agreement on children's rights generally or child abuse specifically. If true, changing professional attitudes should be an important priority. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.