Culture can be defined as a set of beliefs, attitudes, values, and behavior that is passed down from generation to generation. Culture is all-encompassing, and is shaped by many factors including race, religion, and ethnicity. Culture certainly shapes attitudes and ideas about acceptable child behavior and discipline. Culture also affects perceptions of stress, trauma, abuse and reactions to all of those.
It is natural to see one’s own culture as the normal or correct culture, but that is counterproductive in the evaluation of child abuse or neglect. Different child-rearing practices may be seen as strange or dangerous to an outside observer when in actuality they are not. On the other hand, certain practices that are seen as abusive in the United States may be accepted by other cultures.
It is important to remember that cultures vary in many ways, and no one culture is more normal or correct than another. We must be aware of our own values, beliefs and biases, and how those influence our expectations of others. By being culturally competent and aware, we are best able to understand differences in parenting, avoid unnecessary reports, and meet the needs of all children in a sensitive manner.