Parental and Professional Value Mismatch in Child Risk and Protection

  • Dafna Tener
  • Yochay Nadan


Risk, well-being, and protection of children are socially formed constructs that depend largely on the contexts in which families live. In some countries such as Israel, however, this field of knowledge is still largely rooted in universal developmental theories that were formulated based on empirical research and clinical experience conducted primarily in the West (Korbin, 1981). This qualitative paper aims to identify several of the mismatches at play when professionals encounter families belonging to diverse groups and assess risk, wellbeing, and protection for their children. Two minority groups in Israel were studied: the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community and Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia. Parents of the two communities (N=60) and the professionals who work with them (N=50) were interviewed regarding their subjective perceptions and constructions of “risk”, “well-being”, and “protection” for children. With the participants’ permission, all interviews were audio-taped and fully transcribed verbatim.

Data analysis followed the thematic analysis method (Braun & Clarke, 2006). In the first stage, the researchers acquired familiarity with the data (immersion) by reading the interviews several times. In the second stage, we began open coding, which facilitated the identification of basic units of meaning. Then, links and hierarchies among and within the codes (subcategories) were established using axial coding (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). Data analysis was conducted using Dedoose, a cross-platform web application for analysing qualitative data.

As part of the effort to increase the reliability of the study, we employed peer debriefing and an audit log. In the course of peer debriefing, the researchers analysed the data both independently and jointly. Joint analysis was conducted in face-to-face group meetings and considered elements of the data that were previously analysed separately. The unique composition of the research group—which included experts in the field of qualitative analysis, child welfare practitioners and people with differing levels of familiarity with the studied communities, including researchers who are members of the communities—provided multiple perspectives for analysing the raw data and served as a basis for interpreting the findings until consensus could be achieved (investigator triangulation).

The audit log consisted of detailed documentation kept by all the researchers throughout the various stages of the study. The analysis of the interviews generated two main themes. The first is an understanding of the discrepancies in parents’ and professionals’ perceptions and constructions of “risk” and “protection” for children as the product of differences in the values, norms, and contexts of these two groups.

The second focuses on the implications of these discrepancies for the relationship between professionals/social service agencies and parents who are potential service users. This paper concentrates on gaps in perception and value mismatch. Results of the first theme indicate that professionals’ assessment of risk to children tends to rely on various criteria, most of which are based on standard professional indicators from the professional literature that are regarded as “universal”.