Critically Evaluate One Child Development Theory Used with Reference to Social Work Practice

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Drawing on your original child observational studies, critically evaluate one child development theory used in that observation, making reference to Social Work practice

This essay seeks to critically evaluate the role of child observation as a psychoanalytical skill within social work practice. Drawing on insight from the attachment theory. It will highlight its value as a social work tool. The act of observation, according to LeRiche (1998) is considered as being, part of the process of looking, seeing and understanding reality... characterised by passivity and lack of involvement’’ (pg 17). Peberdy (1993:47) compares the act of observation in some ways, to rather like breathing. He infers, that “we would be quite literally lost without the observational skills of watching, listening, counting and identifying patterns of social interaction processes that we tend to take for granted”. Peberdy’s suggests that in failing to tune in to our observation skills we reduce its capacity to a ‘visual activity’, as common feature of our everyday life. However, child observation was used as a training tool in the early fifties, for those intending to work with troubled and disturbed children using a psychodynamic approach (Rhode,2004) . Child analyst, Esther Bick, introduced the practice of systematic observation of the development of infants (Bion, 1962: McMahon & Farnfield, 1994). This consisted of the student observing a baby, starting as soon after the birth as possible, and observing once a week for an hour over a year. Notes were not taken at the time, but students were expected to record in detail afterwards the interaction that they had observed, the emphasis being on what had been seen and felt rather than the students’ own explanations or speculations on what might have been happening (Rhode,2004). Thus, child observation plays an integral part within practices of professional social work, and in the processes of thinking about and conceptualising this work (Trowell and Miles, 2004). Child observation is therefore considered to provide the practitioner with insight of the methodological implementation of social policy, e.g. within areas such as, child protection, supervised contact and risk assessment with children and families and also in the administration of Section 17 of The Children’s Act with vulnerable and disabled children (Briggs 1999: Hindle and Easton, 1999: Mack, 1999: John, 1995: Briggs, 1995a) Moreover, some aspects of child observation that are being seen as increasingly useful to practice, and social work post qualifying training, relate to anti-discriminatory practice and reflective practice (Tanner, 1999; Briggs and Canham 1999). It has been considered as making a contribution to the task of restoring professional competency, in reclaiming social space (Hetherington et al., 1997).

Essentially, the concept of observation is multi-dimensional; however the two main models of observation are the scientific model and the narrative model. The scientific model of observation draws on the idea of positivism and rationality striving for objective reality; where the visual activity is given primacy in enlightening 'truth’. Although objectivity in any case is inadequate, in that scientific inquiry is ‘affected by both the value position of the observer and the social structures within which the observation is taking place’ (Leriche, 1998 pg 26) The narrative model of observation is principally influenced by psychoanalysis and ethnography using observation as a system of study and source of understanding (Leriche, 1998). It provides the most potential and is complementary of epistemology of social work. Its main focus is upon the ‘representation of reality’ and considers the relationship between the observer and the observed (Leriche, 1998). This model of observation provides scope for the ‘observed’ voice to shape the narrative and also works with the inherent subjectivity of the observer. It...
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