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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/practice-approach/practice-standards/ensure-safety-and-wellbeing/definitions-of-abuse-neglect-and-harm/serious-differences/
Printed: 14/06/2024
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Last updated: 01/07/2019

Serious differences

Te tamaiti can suffer serious harm when there are serious differences in the relationship between te tamaiti and their parent or caregiver, or between parents, guardians or caregivers of te tamaiti.

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What are serious differences

Serious differences are:

  • differences between te tamaiti and their parent or caregiver that are so serious that there are impacts on their safety or wellbeing, or that of their siblings, or
  • where there are differences between a parent, guardian or any other person having the care of te tamaiti and any other person who has the care of them that are so serious that there are impacts on the safety and wellbeing of te tamaiti.

Differences between te tamaiti and their parent or caregiver

Serious differences are more than an average disagreement between te tamaiti and their parent, caregiver or whānau or family. The disagreement or difficulty is likely to be irreconcilable, and result in te tamaiti suffering emotional harm due to the breakdown in their relationship with their parent or caregiver.

Difficulties include:

  • disagreements and arguments about life decisions to the point where there are irreconcilable differences, such as if a rangatahi wants to move out of home, be in a relationship with someone their parents don’t like or make identity and cultural connection choices their parents disagree strongly with
  • inability of te tamaiti and their parent or caregiver to communicate with each other in a safe, effective and appropriate manner and may include threatening violence.

Such differences on an ongoing and serious basis can have a significant impact on te tamaiti, causing emotional and cumulative harm. Their living situation can be intolerable and may break down.

Differences between parents or caregivers

Many parents, especially those separated from one another, will have different views regarding the upbringing and parenting of their tamaiti. There are a number of services available to parents to work through issues around parenting and care of their tamariki.

In some circumstances however, the disagreement will lead to conflict between the adults that is ongoing, serious or escalating and has a harmful impact on te tamaiti. For example, one parent may expose te tamaiti to repeated negative opinions about the other parent, may force te tamaiti to lie or withhold information from the other parent, or make repeated unproven allegations against the other parent requiring unnecessary and stressful engagement with statutory agencies (Police and/or Oranga Tamariki).

Some degree of disagreement may be normal — however, repeated conflict between parents or caregivers, especially where te tamaiti is exposed or used in the disagreement, can have a cumulative impact on their emotional wellbeing.

Emotional abuse