NCPEA - National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
Elder Care

The Role of Culture in Elder Abuse

Cultural values, beliefs, and traditions significantly affect family life. They dictate family members' roles and responsibilities toward one another, how family members relate to one another, how decisions are made within families, how resources are distributed, and how problems are defined. Culture further influences how families cope with stress and determines if and when families will seek help from outsiders. Understanding these factors can significantly increase professionals' effectiveness. Colleagues, co-workers, and clients themselves, and members of the community members are workers' most valuable resource in understanding the role of culture. Although it is not possible to achieve an understanding of all the diverse cultures workers are likely to encounter, learning what questions to ask is an important first step:

The answers to these questions can provide guidance to professionals in working with members of diverse ethnic and cultural communities. They will help workers understand expectations and dynamics within families and determine what services will be most appropriate and acceptable. They will help workers identify trusted persons who can be called upon for help. Finally, they can provide insight into promising approaches and vehicles for spreading the word about available services.

Resources for learning more about the role of culture in elder abuse

Kosberg, J.I., & Garcia, J.L. (Eds.).(1995). Elder abuse: International and cross-cultural perspectives. Binghamton, NY: Tayor and Francis/Haworth Press.

Nerenberg, L. (1995). To reach beyond our grasp: A community outreach guide or professionals in the field of elder abuse. Goldman Institute on Aging. For information on how to order this manual, click here.

Tatara, T. (1999). Understanding elder abuse in minority populations. Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis.

Understanding and Combating Elder Abuse in Minority Communities. (1997). Proceedings of a 1997 conference sponsored by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and funded by the Archstone Foundation. Single copies are available at no cost from the Archstone Foundation. To request a copy, contact