Cultural variations in understanding risks for delinquency among maltreated children from the perspectives of U.S. and Korean professionals


Cultural beliefs and values affect how professionals understand maltreated children who engage in delinquency and the appropriate societal responses to those youth. Guided by a sociocultural and developmental perspective, this study examined cultural variations in understanding risks for delinquency among maltreated children between the U.S. and South Korea. Cross-cultural analysis was conducted on data from the in-depth, semi-structured individual interviews with 21 U.S. and 20 Korean professionals serving various roles in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Professionals described common and culturally distinct risk factors. The common risk factors discussed by the U.S. and Korean professionals included: (1) psychosocial vulnerabilities of individual youth; (2) difficulties in parent-child relationship; and (3) systemic challenges to intervention. Yet their interpretations were culturally nuanced reflecting differences in social, cultural, and practice contexts: (1) external (U.S.) and internal (Korea) attribution to youth's psychosocial vulnerabilities; (2) parents history of their own trauma (U.S.) and a lack of parental responsibilities (Korea) as underlying difficulties in the parent-child relationships; and (3) a lack of collaboration (U.S.) and a lack of accountability (Korea) across the child-serving systems as systemic challenges to intervention. Their discussion also revealed culturally unique risk factors: racial disparity (U.S.) and sociocultural justification for physical punishment (Korea). Implications are discussed for professionals, policy makers, and advocates to bring creative ideas for the implementation of culturally sensitive practices and policies in both countries.

Publication Title

Children and Youth Services Review