University of Sussex
Okpokiri, Cynthia Grace.pdf (2.25 MB)

First-generation Nigerian immigrant parents and child welfare issues in Britain

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posted on 2023-06-09, 07:52 authored by Cynthia Grace Okpokiri
Nigerian families are overrepresented in child protection interventions in Greater London, drawing attention to cultural differences in childrearing practices. This research investigates the experiences of first-generation Nigerian immigrant parents regarding their management of childrearing issues, which are contextualised within a British child welfare polity and normative cultural milieu. The tension between Nigerian parents’ childrearing worldviews and those attributed as ‘British’ constitutes the central theme of this thesis. The study employs Bhaskar’s (1998) critical realism as an epistemological and methodological paradigm, complemented by the use of Honneth’s (1995) recognition theory as the principal substantive framework from which the findings are discussed. Qualitative data were collected from Nigerian parents living in Greater London through an internet blog, semi-structured interviews with 25 individuals, and two focus groups with four participants each. Template analysis was used to code and identify themes within the data. The project gives rise to a series of findings. The first is that most participants in the study wished to uphold certain childrearing practices from their backgrounds. Biographical accounts of their own upbringing in Nigeria revealed a picture of caregiving for children occurring within communal and codependent family relationships, which emphasised expectations of obedience and respectful behaviour from children. Participants’ accounts of the physical chastisement of children present this discipline measure as both reasonable and not-so-reasonable. The problematic status of the physical chastisement of children in a British context is the focus of the second key finding of the study. Participants communicated a collective view that Nigerian parents were commonly understood within British society as harsh and controlling, a view attributed to social workers in particular, and other child safeguarding professionals (teachers, child protection police, health professionals) and traditional media producers in general. The defence or disavowal of physical chastisement appears to have become the focus both of immigrant identity practices and the host country’s conditions of belonging and inclusion. A third finding was that parents were fearful in their dealings with child safeguarding professionals. Such fears were identified as linked to prior immigration experiences, xenophobia/racism within public discourses and activities, as well as ineffectual social work practices. Participants communicated the view that their values, knowledge, and experiences were not given proper consideration during child safeguarding interactions/interventions and that the challenges posed to the parent-child relationship by immigration were not acknowledged. Social workers and associated professionals were perceived as practicing in ways that could be described as not ‘culturally competent’ (Bernard and Gupta, 2008, p.476). Participants experienced social workers as overly prescriptive and threatening. They viewed contact with social services with intense suspicion. A fourth finding was the respect expressed by participants for the British government’s efforts to uphold the rights of children. An invitation to participants to share their strategies for managing tensions between Nigerian and British parenting values provided insights to how active/passive influences contribute to everyday strategies of parenting in a context of immigration. Drawing on recognition theory, the thesis offers a way of understanding these findings that recognises and makes sense of the dignity, resilience, fears, and aspirations conveyed by the research participants. The thesis argues for an approach that capitalises on shared values and acknowledges the strengths of Nigerian immigrants’ parenting styles while promoting acceptable alternatives to practices that might have attracted child intervention. Recognition theory is offered to social work practice as a starting point for a strengths based approach to integration and wellbeing, suggesting that socio-political participation in the British child welfare polity would lead to an improvement in the confidence and wellbeing of these parents and their children. This conclusion has implications for British social work professionals and other authorities involved in child welfare policy and practice.


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