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The construction of gender in child protection work

Scourfield, Jonathan ORCID: 1999. The construction of gender in child protection work. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The thesis is a discussion of child protection, gender relations and social work culture, the focus being the construction of men and women clients in the occupational culture of the social work office. The empirical basis is an ethnographic study of a child and family social work team in the UK, combining methods of participant observation, in-depth interviews and documentary analysis. The thesis structure is a conventional one. There is a review of the context of the study in theory and policy, a discussion of research methods, five empirical chapters, a theoretical discussion, and a conclusion that tackles the question of relevance to social work practice. The key theoretical perspectives are contextual constructionism and occupational culture as discourse. It is argued that while the concept of patriarchy is pertinent to the topic of the occupational construction of gendered clients, a post-structuralist understanding of the culture of the social work office most usefully explains the presence of multiple gendered discourses. The ethnographic data show that client masculinity tends to be viewed negatively (men as a threat, as no use, as absent, as irrelevant), although there are also contrary discourses (men as no different, men as better than women). The defining discourses identified in relation to women clients are women as oppressed, women as responsible for protection, and women as making choices. The selection of child protection priorities is found to be highly gendered, the specific example in the local authority studied being the targeting of the physical neglect of children, a decision that increases the scrutiny of mothering. There is discussion in the thesis of the application of social work knowledge and values in practice. There are found to be tensions between the individual and the social, with implications for social work practice with men and women clients.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
Publisher: Cardiff University
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 March 2021
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2022 10:17

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