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Special Issue "Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021) | Viewed by 19685

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Juha Hämäläinen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P. O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
Interests: social welfare; social work; social pedagogy; child and family research
Prof. Riitta Vornanen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P. O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
Interests: child welfare; social work with children and families; child and family research
Dr. Kaisa Pihlainen
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Educational Sciences and Psychology, University of Eastern Finland, P. O. Box 111, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
Interests: special education; early education; participation; learning environments; digital learning; learning in old age

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In today’s world, a rapid social change and increasing social instability are shaping families’ every-day life and children’s living conditions. There are good reasons to address research to the needs and opportunities for providing necessary social support for children and families regarding both country-specific and universal issues. So far, however, the child and family aspect has had very little substantial presence in research and policies on sustainability.

This Special Issue will comprise a selection of papers presenting original and innovative contributions to the advancement of child and family research in areas related to the concept of sustainable family life with respect to policies and practices that strengthen families’ recilience and wellbeing. From this subject forth, this Special Issue deals with topics that explain phenomena, mechanisms and circumstances threatening families’ capacity for adequate care as well as approaches, systems and models of support. We welcome contributions concerning different forms of family related to divorce, migration, socio-economic and demographic changes, cultural factors and other issues influencing on functions and structures of families.    

Papers selected for this Special Issue will be subject to a rigorous peer-review process with the aim of rapid and wide dissemination of research results, developments, and applications.

Prof. Juha Hämäläinen
Prof. Riitta Vornanen
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainability of family
  • family resilience
  • child and family policies
  • family services
  • child welfare
  • children’s rights
  • migration
  • divorce
  • parenting

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare
Sustainability 2021, 13(14), 7556; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13147556 - 06 Jul 2021
Viewed by 554
Abstract
This special issue deals specifically with the sustainability of families and child welfare with respect to sustainable social development [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)

Research

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Article
Workforce Development and Multiagency Collaborations: A Presentation of Two Case Studies in Child Welfare
Sustainability 2021, 13(18), 10190; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810190 - 13 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 667
Abstract
Background: Two disciplines that work in the child welfare arena, social welfare and healthcare, are crucial for addressing families’ and children’s needs in social, emotional, and physical healthcare situations. How child welfare workers are trained and how healthcare teams collaborate with other stakeholders [...] Read more.
Background: Two disciplines that work in the child welfare arena, social welfare and healthcare, are crucial for addressing families’ and children’s needs in social, emotional, and physical healthcare situations. How child welfare workers are trained and how healthcare teams collaborate with other stakeholders in the child welfare system is crucial in meeting and sustaining the needs of families and children. Methods: We demonstrate two case examples, one focusing on enhanced learning tools through virtual reality (VR) and the other on strengthening collaborations between healthcare teams and the child welfare system. Results: For the VR training tool, 79% of participants indicated they would recommend the VR learning tool as effective in developing skills in the child welfare workforce. In response to the learning collaborative project, child welfare participants reported positive impressions regarding collaborative practices while identifying system-level barriers to implementation. Conclusion: Findings from these two case studies provide insights from which to consider system development for designing and implementing sustainable improvements in child welfare approaches to families and children referred for suspected maltreatment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
How Does the Family Influence the Process of Transition to Adulthood? A Comparative Study of Young People with and without Family Ties in Spain
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8919; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168919 - 09 Aug 2021
Viewed by 777
Abstract
The transition to adulthood is a process that brings childhood to an end and turns the individual into a young adult. This process is characterised by the acquisition of new roles for young people, roles linked to the development of personal autonomy that [...] Read more.
The transition to adulthood is a process that brings childhood to an end and turns the individual into a young adult. This process is characterised by the acquisition of new roles for young people, roles linked to the development of personal autonomy that culminate in their emotional and functional independence. The aim of this study was to ascertain how young people with family ties and youths without family support perceive and understand their emancipation process. The study also sought to identify the extent to which family provides support during the emancipation process. The research design was qualitative and used the focus group technique for data collection. The total sample consisted of 12 participants (seven males and five females) with an average age of 18. Five of them were minors in the custody of the State, and seven were young adults in a regular family environment. The information collected was analysed using Atlas.ti software. The results highlighted the existence of difficulties and barriers among young people (with and without family ties) related to psychological problems, difficulties in choosing training, finding a job and, in short, emancipation. However, young people with healthy social ties and family stability during their childhood had more support for an effective transition to independent adulthood compared to young people without family ties. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
Article
Considering Family and Child Welfare in Lithuania in Terms of Social Sustainability Pursuant to Observations of Everyday Professional Practice
Sustainability 2021, 13(16), 8751; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13168751 - 05 Aug 2021
Viewed by 517
Abstract
This article investigates the family and child welfare system in Lithuania in terms of social sustainability, with an emphasis on children’s rights. The conceptual framework of Gilbert et al. (2011a) on child welfare was used as the substance of the research, identifying the [...] Read more.
This article investigates the family and child welfare system in Lithuania in terms of social sustainability, with an emphasis on children’s rights. The conceptual framework of Gilbert et al. (2011a) on child welfare was used as the substance of the research, identifying the problem frame, aim and mode of intervention, and parent–state relationship as the main dimensions for analyzing configurations of the child welfare systems. The analysis in this article focuses on how the family and child welfare system is observed in everyday professional practice in Lithuania by linking it with the social sustainability concept. The quantitative research sample comprised 501 respondents from Lithuania, representing different professionals of the family and child welfare system. An online questionnaire was distributed across regional municipal social services departments and to the national service of the State Child Rights Protection and Adoption Service. Explorative factor analysis and multidimensional scaling were used for data analysis. The research demonstrated that family and child welfare dimensions are meaningfully related to the social sustainability concept through the rights of a child such as the child’s best interests, accessibility to services, the right to be heard, protection against violence, child identity, development assurance, and so forth. The research indicates the need for awareness raising, including education and training for professional actors regarding child and family welfare, as an integral part of the concept of social sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Options for Africa’s Child Welfare Systems from Nigeria’s Unsustainable Multicultural Models
Sustainability 2021, 13(3), 1118; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031118 - 21 Jan 2021
Viewed by 547
Abstract
The sustainability of Africa’s existing child welfare systems remains uncertain, potentially owing to the maltreatment of children amid the competing worldviews of the continent’s indigenous and non-indigenous practices and international childcare models. This article focuses on Nigeria’s unsustainable multicultural child welfare system in [...] Read more.
The sustainability of Africa’s existing child welfare systems remains uncertain, potentially owing to the maltreatment of children amid the competing worldviews of the continent’s indigenous and non-indigenous practices and international childcare models. This article focuses on Nigeria’s unsustainable multicultural child welfare system in order to highlight the inherent challenges of child welfare systems in Africa and proffer remedies. Seven discernible trends derived from available indigenous sources of information and scholarly literature on Nigeria are used as mind maps to describe and discuss Nigeria’s multicultural characteristics and childcare practices. From the discussion, the country’s child welfare challenges manifest in the following forms: ethnocultural, or more specifically, ethnoreligious diversity; the infiltration of Nigeria by non-native worldviews; colonial legacies; vacillating post-colonial social policies; conceptual ambiguities in non-indigenous welfare terminologies; and persistent unnecessary professional rivalries, which are also present in other African countries. As remedies, three transformative response options for the sustainability of the Nigerian child welfare system and those of other African countries are recommended: embracing cultural relativity regarding child maltreatment, leveraging the transformative and expanded mandates of the social work profession for the development of effective and sustainable child welfare systems, and using research and systems thinking as a driver for transforming professional rivalries into multidisciplinary approaches. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Protection of Children in Difficulty in China during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sustainability 2021, 13(1), 279; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13010279 - 30 Dec 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1211
Abstract
This study investigated the resilience of the Chinese child protection system in responding to the special needs of children in difficulty under the specific circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study applied qualitative document analysis of child protection administrative documents, in-depth interviews [...] Read more.
This study investigated the resilience of the Chinese child protection system in responding to the special needs of children in difficulty under the specific circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study applied qualitative document analysis of child protection administrative documents, in-depth interviews with 13 child protection professionals, and an in-depth case study of 14 children living in difficulty, complemented by relevant information available in the media. The results indicate that there are good policies in China’s child protection services but the organizational and functional fragmentation complicates implementation, suggesting a need for the development of bottom-up practices. The essential conclusion supported by these results is that the child protection system should be regarded and developed as a systematic project combining the legal, policymaking, and professional systems of child welfare services as well as governmental and non-governmental forces. As the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the need to develop the field of child protection holistically as an integrated system in terms of social sustainability in China, an international literature-based comparison indicates that the pandemic has also raised similar political awareness in other countries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Structural Relationships among Online Community Use, Parental Stress, Social Support, and Quality of Life between Korean and Taiwanese Employed Mothers
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10681; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410681 - 21 Dec 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 937
Abstract
This study examined mothers’ online community (OC) use and its structural relationship with parental stress, social support, and quality of life (QoL) under the social perspective of leisure and the theory of social support as a stress buffer. The population comprised employed mothers [...] Read more.
This study examined mothers’ online community (OC) use and its structural relationship with parental stress, social support, and quality of life (QoL) under the social perspective of leisure and the theory of social support as a stress buffer. The population comprised employed mothers in two countries, Korea and Taiwan, which constitute appropriate settings for cross-cultural comparisons in the context of mothers’ OC use. The online questionnaire was distributed to 12 Korean mothers’ OCs and 14 Taiwanese mothers’ OCs, targeting employed mothers who have at least one child under seven-years-old and access mothers’ OCs on a regular basis. A total of 232 Korean and 303 Taiwanese responses were analyzed to examine the structural relationships among four key variables using structural equation modelling in AMOS 20. This study confirms that more parental stress leads to worse QoL. However, more parental stress results in less frequent participation in OCs, and OC use exerts a negative influence on QoL, which contradicts the hypothesized positive correlations. In comparison among Korean and Taiwanese mothers, Korean respondents showed a stronger influence of parental stress to mobilize more social support than did Taiwanese. This multidisciplinary study contributes to expanding the literature in noncommercial OCs, employed mothers in online leisure, and online social support in cross-cultural settings to promote the sustainability of families’ wellbeing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Family Coping Strategies During Finland’s COVID-19 Lockdown
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9133; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219133 - 03 Nov 2020
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 4335
Abstract
During spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns fundamentally changed families’ everyday lives. This study aims to examine how families with children coped during the COVID-19 lockdown in Finland and what kind of coping strategies they developed. An online survey including both [...] Read more.
During spring 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns fundamentally changed families’ everyday lives. This study aims to examine how families with children coped during the COVID-19 lockdown in Finland and what kind of coping strategies they developed. An online survey including both qualitative and quantitative questions was conducted between April and May 2020 to gather Finnish families’ experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown. In this study, we focus on information from one open-ended question, and Huston’s social-ecological theory was used as an analytical framework. The results showed that Finnish families employed coping strategies on three levels: macroenvironmental, relationship, and individual. This supports the argument that to better understand families’ coping strategies, the macrosocietal environment surrounding families, their relationships, and the interactions between family members, as well as individual decisions and attitudes, should be taken into account. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Sustainable Family Life and Child Welfare: A Conceptual Framework
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9112; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219112 - 02 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1188
Abstract
Although there have been developments in family and child welfare services, these have not been prioritized from a sustainability perspective. This article aims to provide a framework for supporting sustainable provisions for family and child welfare. We demonstrate how the need for a [...] Read more.
Although there have been developments in family and child welfare services, these have not been prioritized from a sustainability perspective. This article aims to provide a framework for supporting sustainable provisions for family and child welfare. We demonstrate how the need for a socially sustainable stance on family and child welfare arises from the recognition of global changes that constantly influence families as well as children’s rights, which ground child- and family-centered actions. The conceptual framework includes three overarching dimensions and four levels of actors that provide a body for 16 conceptual entities in providing socially sustainable family and child welfare. The analysis showed that functional child welfare and family policies, systems, and practices appear essential elements, even necessary preconditions, of sustainability and sustainable development in general. Leaning on the concept of children’s rights, we conclude that the idea of child welfare promises citizens that society has committed to promoting all children’s wellbeing. Implementation of this requires a shared understanding that the conceptual framework provided in this paper urges to actualize. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Path toward a Child-Centered Approach in the Czech Social and Legal Protection of Children
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 8897; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12218897 - 27 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 820
Abstract
Child protection was traditionally based on a presumption that the mother best knows what is in the best interest of her child. The discourse began to be questioned in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, followed by efforts to bring interests and needs [...] Read more.
Child protection was traditionally based on a presumption that the mother best knows what is in the best interest of her child. The discourse began to be questioned in the Czech Republic in the 1990s, followed by efforts to bring interests and needs of children into focus, as well as the ways in which they can be taken into account in the assessment process as a basis for intervention. This paper aimed to identify key features of the child-centered approach in the professional discourse of the Czech child protection and to analyze the conditions of its application. The goal was achieved through qualitative thematic analysis of professional texts in the area of social and legal protection of children since 1990 and also of legislative and methodological materials regulating child protection. This paper shows the changing of the paradigm in the social and legal protection of children and points out the shortcomings in social work practice. The reason for optimism may be the fact that an umbrella body of state administration for child protection is aware of shortcomings and, in the form of projects focusing on various topics of social work with families, works to improve competences and knowledge. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
Parents’ Views on Family Resiliency in Sustainable Remote Schooling during the COVID-19 Outbreak in Finland
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 8844; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12218844 - 24 Oct 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 4222
Abstract
The closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic created a challenge for families and teachers in supporting children’s remote schooling. This study investigates parents’ perspectives on their accommodation to the rapid change to remote schooling from the point of view of sustainable [...] Read more.
The closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic created a challenge for families and teachers in supporting children’s remote schooling. This study investigates parents’ perspectives on their accommodation to the rapid change to remote schooling from the point of view of sustainable education. The study was conducted at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020 via an online questionnaire for parents, to which 316 voluntary participants responded. Data were analyzed using a theory-driven content analysis. According to the results, parents were worried about the learning and wellbeing of their children as well as management of daily life and use of information and communications technology (ICT). The results show the importance of schools and teachers as well as networks in supporting family resilience during rapid changes. Families’ individual needs should be acknowledged and met in a sustainable way to support children’s learning in changing settings, including remote schooling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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Article
“Depression from Overestimation”: Income, Perception Bias and Children’s Mental Health in China’s Rural Households
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 870; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030870 - 23 Jan 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1170
Abstract
The mental health of rural children is closely related to their household characteristics, with household income level as one of the important influencing factors. In general, improvement in household income level is deemed to play an important role in promoting children’s mental health. [...] Read more.
The mental health of rural children is closely related to their household characteristics, with household income level as one of the important influencing factors. In general, improvement in household income level is deemed to play an important role in promoting children’s mental health. However, the impact and mechanism of household income status perception bias on children’s mental health due to changes in the structure of household expenditure are under studied. On the basis of the perspective of household income status perception bias, we constructed a representative behavior household model of income status perception bias and a three-wave panel. We adopted the data from Chinese household tracking surveys in 2012, 2014, and 2016 to empirically analyze the mechanism and channel of household income status perception bias on children’s mental health. Results reveal that: (1) A significant negative correlation exists between household income level and income status perception bias, and poor households are likely to have income status perception bias. (2) A significant positive correlation exists between income status perception bias of poor households and their gift-giving expenditure, whereas a negative correlation exists between income status perception bias and expenditure for children’s education. The more the poor households overestimate their income status, the more inclined they are to increase their gift spending and reduce expenditure for children’s education, thereby changing the structure of family expenditure. (3) A significant negative correlation exists between poor household income status perception bias and the mental health status of their children, whereas a positive correlation exists between household expenditure for children’s education and children’s mental health status. That is, the more that poor households overestimate their relative income status, the greater the mental pressure on children. Finally, the reduction of expenditure on children’s education by rural households is an effective channel through which income status perception bias among poor households affects children’s mental pressure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)

Review

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Review
Review Paper: ‘Discourses on the Place of Mothers Rights where They Are Subject to Domestic Violence within Child Protection Work in England’
Sustainability 2021, 13(19), 10691; https://doi.org/10.3390/su131910691 - 26 Sep 2021
Viewed by 593
Abstract
This article examines the place of gendered relationships between parents with regard to child protection work in England, and the effects of this on mothers who are abused by their male partners. These areas are discussed within an emotionally, socially, and politically charged [...] Read more.
This article examines the place of gendered relationships between parents with regard to child protection work in England, and the effects of this on mothers who are abused by their male partners. These areas are discussed within an emotionally, socially, and politically charged set of issues concerning to what extent the State should intervene, why, and how between parents and their children in terms of parental rights and child protection. In this way, the article examines fault lines in the Western world’s ideology of the family, and concepts and realities of parental, mothers’ and children’s rights. In examining dominant and competing discourses on parental rights in child protection work, the case is made for the need to disaggregate concepts and approaches away from parental rights per se, to viewing the possibility of needing to see fathers and mothers needs and rights as at times being in conflict. This becomes particularly problematic in relation to mothers’ rights to their own protection from abuse, and how this relates to professional interventions when both the mother and the children are being abused. It considers the need to acknowledge and foreground taking account of how the mother and child(ren) are experiencing the abuse, not how society and professionals might like to view the situation by way of an idealized view of families through a particular ideological lens. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)

Other

Discussion
Migration as a Challenge to the Sustainability of Nordic Gender Equality Policies as Highlighted through the Lived Experiences of Eritrean Mothers Living in Denmark
Sustainability 2020, 12(23), 10072; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122310072 - 02 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1057
Abstract
This study focused on the complex process of adjustment and adaptation experienced by refugee parents from Eritrea who have settled in Aalborg, Denmark. Migration is a challenge to the sustainability of Nordic gender equality policies, in the face of cultural differences between refugees [...] Read more.
This study focused on the complex process of adjustment and adaptation experienced by refugee parents from Eritrea who have settled in Aalborg, Denmark. Migration is a challenge to the sustainability of Nordic gender equality policies, in the face of cultural differences between refugees and host countries. This narrative study undertaken in the Eritrean community in Aalborg, Denmark took place against the background of cultural differences between the refugees and their host country, and Nordic gender equality policies. The study was done through the lens of parenting, to provide Eritrean refugee parents in Aalborg with the opportunity to share their lived experiences of settling in Denmark. The overarching aim of this study was to explore with Eritrean parents how they raise their children in a new country, as well as identifying both the challenges they face and the strengths which they bring to that role through their narratives. It aims to improve the understanding of what is significant to these parents during the process of their adaptation to a new environment. The role of refugees is well-established in their country of origin, but exposure to the Nordic Welfare Model which embraces women as being equal to men, is often problematic for Eritrean female refugees. Increasing cross-cultural knowledge in Denmark, through becoming aware of the lived experiences of the refugees as parents is important, particularly for those involved in social services that engage with this community. The study focused on the nature of challenges faced by Eritrean mothers experienced whilst integrating into Danish society. A semi-structured approach was used to obtain and analyze the data that was collected through interpersonal, qualitative methods in a narrative paradigm. The methodology was informed by initial focus groups meetings. Face-to-face engagement with the parents, utilizing an Eritrean interpreter as an integral part of the research team, was used. This study has highlighted the importance of engaging directly with refugee communities within their existing structures with a willingness to understand their culture. This approach may sit outside traditional research settings and service provision norms, but it informs more targeted, culturally appropriate, and acceptable interventions, which will assist the refugee community to effectively integrate into Danish society. The questions raised indicate an urgent need to recognize the cultural differences between refugees and host countries, and for this purpose to obtain more in-depth studies addressing this poorly examined area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability of Families and Child Welfare)
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