Beijing-Seoul Families and Neighborhoods Study

Clifton R. Emery, School of Social Welfare, Yonsei University

Research Grant, 2011, 2012

What do neighbors, friends, and extended family members do in response to domestic violence and child abuse, and does it make a difference? Are there cultural differences in this informal social control of family violence, and do such differences explain cultural differences in the prevalence and severity of domestic violence and child maltreatment? These are the principal questions the Families and Neighborhoods Study (FNS) attempts to answer, using newly developed measures of informal social control on random probability samples of cities. The FNS also tests propositions developed from Emery’s (2011) theoretical typology of domestic violence. The principal investigator (PI) received funding from HFG in 2011 and 2012 to carry out the FNS survey in Beijing, China, and Seoul, South Korea. In 2011 the study team interviewed 506 adults in a representative random probability sample of 506 families in Beijing. In 2012 the study team followed up with 541 interviews of adults in a representative random probability sample of families in Seoul. The findings from both cities suggest that whether your neighbors do anything, and especially what they do, may matter. The findings also suggest that the neighborhood collective efficacy measure may not be the best way to capture informal social control of family violence, as the data do not show the expected relationships between collective efficacy and family violence, but do show relationships between the PI’s informal social control measures and family violence.

Based on the promising findings from the HFG-funded study, the FNS has now expanded to include data from representative samples from Beijing, Seoul, Hanoi, Ulaan Baatar, Kathmandu (collected and currently under analysis or review), Philadelphia (collection in progress) and Madrid (planned for summer 2014). In one of the twists of fate that so frequently baffle academics, the findings from the first two cities (Seoul and Beijing) remain in the peer review process while findings from later waves of data collection have already been published. This fact frustratingly prevents a detailed discussion of the Beijing-Seoul findings here. It is hoped that this omission can be corrected soon as the Seoul findings are presently under revision for the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

The findings from both cities suggest that whether your neighbors do anything, and especially what they do, may matter.

In Hanoi, the FNS found that acts of informal social control by neighbors that try to protect the child are associated with less very severe abuse of the child (Emery, Trung & Wu, 2013). The same study found that when very severe abuse did occur, abuse-related externalizing behavior problems were lower when parents reported protective informal social control by neighbors (ibid). The goals of current data collection include making possible East-West comparisons of informal social control and the assessment of causal relationships via experimental techniques on population-based surveys.

The FNS has also found important relationships between variables suggested by Emery’s (2011) typology and intimate partner violence in Kathmandu and Ulaan Baatar.

  1. Emery, C.R., Trung, H. & Wu, S. Neighborhood Informal Social Control of Child Maltreatment: A Comparison of Protective and Punitive Approaches. Child Abuse & Neglect, June, 2013. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.05.002.

  2. Emery, C.R. Disorder or Deviant Order? Re-Theorizing Domestic Violence in Terms of Order, Power and Legitimacy. A Typology. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16(6): 525-540, November-December, 2011.

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