A socio-cultural analysis of elder abuse in a non-western society of Ghana : theoretical approach and (multi-stakeholder) interventions for elder justice


Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


Research and policy literature on elder abuse and its conceptualisation has been dominated by Western academics and institutions. The conceptualisations in the literature do not adequately capture non-Western perspectives embedded in socio-cultural norms. Empirical studies on prevalence and risk factors of elder abuse are also dominated by Western and Asian scholars. However, research on elder abuse or mistreatment in Africa, to date, remains understudied and thus there is the need for thorough investigation and understanding of the phenomenon. In response, this thesis set out to offer socio-contextual/cultural meaning and understanding of elder abuse in a non-Western society of Ghana. Specifically, the thesis examined how various stakeholders (such as caregivers, social workers, police officers, traditional authorities, religious leaders, lawyers, community members, health professionals and older persons aged 60+) understand elder abuse and investigated the risk and protective factors of elder abuse from self-reported information by older people. To have a nuanced account of the patterns of elder abuse, the thesis also sought to explore older persons’ lived experiences of abuse and discuss the perceived factors that shape the implementation of Elder Justice Laws in Ghana and other non-Western societies. In doing so, I drew on the theory of planned behaviour, contextual theory of elder abuse, symbol interactionism, and the socio-contextual and ageing stereotype framework of elder abuse to explain situations that result in elder abuse or the factors that contribute to the occurrence of elder abuse. The study adopted a transformative (exploratory sequential) mixed methods approach, including a cross-sectional survey involving 860 older adults aged 60+, and semi-structured in-depth interviews with 79 stakeholders in two major metropolitan areas in Ghana (Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi). Findings from the qualitative research showed that elder abuse was understood as: a) false and witchcraft accusations, b) disrespect, c) neglect and isolation, d) discrimination against older people, e) deprivation of older persons’ human rights, f) aggressive response to older adults’ behaviour and action, g) economic and financial exploitation, h) gestures (non-verbal actions), and i) self-harm. For the quantitative results, the hierarchal linear multiple regression analysis performed showed that living arrangement, years lived in a community, loneliness, anxiety, having conflict with others, mistrust, and community support for health services positively predicted elder abuse (in the final model). However, only respect and neighbourhood bonding negatively predicted elder abuse. This study has important contributions to elder abuse scholarship and policy interventions in non-Western societies which are influenced by socio-cultural norms. The mixed methods offered a comprehensive approach to understanding elder abuse from a socio-contextual/cultural lens through the qualitative research as well as the patterns and predictors of elder abuse from the quantitative aspect.
Date of Award12 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorKa Ho Joshua MOK (Supervisor) & Tat Chor AU YEUNG (Co-supervisor)

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