Safeguarding without stigmatising: Language of responses to child abuse in high- and upper-middle- income countries

Lauren Elizabeth Lines, Julian Maree Grant, Tracy Alexis Kakyo, Alison Hutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Child abuse and neglect is an increasing international social issue. Specific challenges include the over-representation of disadvantaged and marginalised populations, including First Nations communities. This document review explored how responses to child abuse and neglect are conceptualised in international policy and professional guidelines to identify the language that shapes strategies to address child abuse and neglect. In doing so, this review aimed to identify which approaches may be applicable to the Australian context to underpin population-wide strategies to address child abuse and neglect and provide a shared language for professionals working with children. Twenty-two policies and professional guidelines from 13 high and upper-middle income countries were analysed inductively supported by NVivo software. Key findings showed that many policies and professional guidelines included blame, labelling and stigmatising language which may further marginalise children and families. One approach that minimised stigmatising language was safeguarding as practiced in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Safeguarding may be applicable to contexts like Australia to underpin inclusive approaches and provide a shared vision and language for all professionals working with children. However, further research is needed to explore whether safeguarding could be enacted in culturally safe ways in colonised countries with First Nations populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-599
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Early online date23 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


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