Caregivers' perceptions of informal social control practices to reduce child neglect: A qualitative study in Ghana

Alhassan Abdullah, Clifton R. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Rational choice deterrence theory suggests that caregiving behavior, which includes abusive and neglectful behavior, can be influenced or manipulated via informal social control strategies enacted by neighbors, family members and friends in the social network. The literature identifies two forms of informal social control that have the potential to influence maltreating caregiver behavior, protective vs punitive, with the latter having more contrasting evidence related to its influence on maltreating caregiving practices. 

Objective: To examine the perceptions and meanings female caregivers associate with protective and punitive informal social control strategies that have been enacted against them. 

Methods: 17 female caregivers from Ghana, who self-reported their involvement in neglectful acts, were purposively selected to engage in river of life oral history narrative interviews. Narrative accounts from the caregivers were analyzed thematically using Taguette software package. 

Results: The findings showed that protective informal social control in child neglect are interpreted via values and norms of childcare that have been institutionalized in the community. Caregivers perceived protective informal social control to have impact on their level of respect/influence, authority in the family or community, and to elicit internal consequences: shame, guilty feelings and embarrassment. Punitive informal social control approaches were considered as misplaced interventions that had ulterior motives of satisfying the neighbors' hatred/dislike of the perpetrator and quest for revenge. 

Conclusion: The findings suggest that the development of a fruitful theoretical framework to explain the effectiveness of informal social control should prioritize the social values and legitimate norms of the community. Implications for practice and theory development are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105848
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date28 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Child maltreatment
  • Informal social control
  • Intervention in child neglect
  • ISC_CM
  • Neglect prevention
  • Rational choice deterrence


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