British Journal of Social Work (2003) 33, 87–106
The Social Work Assessment of
Parenting: An Exploration
Johanna Woodcock is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Plymouth. Correspondence to Johanna Woodcock, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK.
The signiﬁcance of parenting in the conduct of child-care practice is apparent in a range of legal and policy documents emanating from the government. This has been further emphasized in recent years in the refocusing debate emphasizing issues of need and support. While research in childcare has inevitably involved parenting (for example in relation to child protection), and as the broad concentration has progressed through issues of child protection and family support, this has not generally incorporated the social workers’ construction of parenting, and the ways this is incorporated into, and informs, their practice actions. This is particularly interesting because this focus enables an examination of this construction in the light of broad themes about parenting in the psychological literature. This relates also, therefore, to the debate on (and use of) an Evidence Base for practice. This paper seeks to explore social workers’ construction of parenting, and the way this ‘feeds into’ social workers’ practice actions. The paper found that, while some of the constructions reﬂected themes in the psychological literature, social workers were rarely informed by overt reference to knowledge gained from this literature. The concept of a ‘surface static notion of parenting’—one which restricted the social workers’ capacity to respond positively to the needs of parents underlying their parenting—was developed as a way of understanding social work constructions and practice actions in relation to parenting. While this is one study, the ‘surface static notion of parenting’ represents a means for understanding one way in which social workers’ constructions impinge on their practice with parents. The implications of this approach are explored. It is practically axiomatic that the assessment of parenting is a major component of child care practice. This assessment is a key element in the Framework for Assessing Children in Need and their Families (Department of Health, 1999a), which, alongside the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out to provide the new ‘refocused’ emphasis on looking at the needs of vulnerable children and families in order to promote their well-being and ensure that ‘optimal outcomes will occur’ (Department of Health, 1999b). This, in turn, reﬂected the earlier ‘Messages From Research’ document (Department of Health, 1995). Underlying these
British Journal of Social Work 33/1 BASW Trading Ltd 2003 all rights reserved.
88 Johanna Woodcock
developments is the philosophy of The Children Act, 1989, that ‘the best place for the child to be brought up is usually in his own family’ (Department of Health, 1991a). A concern to assess and promote the upbringing of children by their families is apparent in the Family Support provisions of the Act (section 17) whereby intervention should enhance ’ the parents’ capabilities and conﬁdence so that they may provide effectively for the child’s welfare’(Department of Health, 1991:11). Social workers are also directed to consider parenting in the light of whether it is ‘abusive’ (s47, The Children Act 1989). The issue of signiﬁcant harm emerges, and compulsory intervention may occur, where they have considered that harm is attributable to the care being given ‘not being what it would be reasonable to expect’ a parent to provide (s31(2), The Children Act 1989). This is about ‘good enough’ or ‘reasonable’ parenting. The assessment of parenting, therefore, has a central legal position in childcare practice. Research studies of social work practice in child and family care have inevitably involved...
References: Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E. and Wall, S. (1978) Patterns of Attachment:
A Psychological Study in the Strange Situation, Hillsdale NJ, Erlbaum.
Aldgate, J. and Bradley, M. (2000) Supporting Families through Short-term Fostering,
London, The Stationery Ofﬁce.
Aldgate, J. and Tunstill, J. (1995) Making sense of Section 17, London, HMSO.
Aldgate, J. and Tunstill, J. (2000) Children in Need: From Policy to Practice, London, The
Bandura, A. (1962) ‘Social learning through imitation’, in Jones, M. R. (ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, University of Nebraska Press.
Bebbington, A. and Miles, J. (1989) ‘The background of children who enter local authority
care’, British Journal of Social Work, 19, pp
Belsky, J. (1984) ‘The determinants of parenting: a process model’, Child Development, 55,
Belsky, J. and Vondra, J. (1989) ‘Lessons from child abuse: the determinants of parenting’,
in Cichetti, D
Brandon, M., Thoburn, J., Lewis, A. and Way, A. (1999) Safeguarding Children with the
Children Act 1989, London, The Stationery Ofﬁce.
Bretherton, I. (1985) ‘Attachment theory: Retrospect and prospect’, in Bretherton, I. and
Social Work Assessment of Parenting 103
Brown, G. W., Andrews, B., Harris, T. O., Adler, Z. and Bridge, L. (1986) ‘Social support,
self-esteem and depression’, Psychological Medicine, 16, pp
Cassell, D. and Coleman, R. (1995) ‘Parents with psychiatric problems’, in Reder, P. and
Lucey, C., Assessment of Parenting—Psychiatric and Psychological Contributions,
Cicchetti, D. and Rizley, R. (1981) ‘Developmental perspectives on the etiology, intergenerational transmission and sequelae of child maltreatment’, New Directions for Child Development, 11, pp. 31–6.
Claussen, A. H. and Crittenden, P. M. (1991) ‘Physical and psychological maltreatment: relation among types of maltreatment’, Child Abuse and Neglect, 15, pp. 5–18.
Cleaver, H. and Freeman, P. (1995) Parental Perspectives in Cases of Suspected Child Abuse,
Coulton, M., Drury, C. and Williams, M. (1995) Children in Need, Aldershot, Avebury.
Cox, A. (1988) ‘Maternal depression and impact on childrens’ development’, Archives of
Disease in Childhood, 63, pp
Creighton, S. J. and Noyes, P. (1989) Child Abuse Trends in England and Wales 1983–1987,
London, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Cummings, E. M. and Davies, P. T. (1994) ‘Maternal depression and child development’,
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, pp
Daniel, B. (2000) ‘Judgements about parenting: What do social workers think they are doing?’,
Child Abuse Review, 9, pp
Department of Health (1991) Assessing Outcomes in Child Care, London, HMSO.
Department of Health (1991) The Children Act Guidance and Regulations: Volume 2, Family
Support, Day Care and Educational Provision for Young Children, London, HMSO.
Department of Health (1995) Child Protection: Messages From Research, London, HMSO.
Department of Health (1999a) Framework for Assessing Children in Need and their Families,
London, The Stationery Ofﬁce.
Department of Health (1999b) Modernising Health and Social Services, London, Department
Department of Health (1999c) Working Together to Safeguard Children, London, The Stationery Ofﬁce.
Dumas, J. E. (1992) ‘Conduct disorder’, in Turner, S. M., Calhoun, K. S. and Adams, H. D.
Egeland, B., Sroufe, A. and Erickson, M. A. (1983) ‘Developmental consequences of different
patterns of maltreatment’, Child Abuse and Neglect, 7, pp
Farmer, E. and Owen, M. (1995) Child Protection Practice: Private Risks and Public Remedies. Decision Making, Intervention and Outcome in Child Protection Work, London,
Finch, J. and Mason, J. (1990) ‘Decision taking in the ﬁeldwork process: Theoretical sampling
and collaborative working’, in Burgess, R.G
Flick, U. (1998) An Introduction to Qualitative Research, London, Sage Publications.
Gibbons, J. and Gallagher, B. (1993) Development of Children after Physical Abuse in Early
Life: Report to Department of Health, University of East Anglia, in Gibbons, J
Gibbons, J. with Thorpe, S. and Wilkinson, P. (1990) Family Support and Prevention: Studies
in Local Areas, London, HMSO.
Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory, London, Weidenfeld
Gordon, D. and Gibbons, J. (1998) ‘Placing children on child protection registers: risk indicators and Local Authority differences’, British Journal of Social Work, 28, pp. 423–36.
Gough, D. A., Body, F. A., Dunning, N. and Stone, F. H. (1987) ‘A Longitudinal Study of
Child Abuse in Glasgow’, in Hill, M., Hawthorne Kirk, R
Griest, D., Forehand, R., Wells, K. C. and McMahon, R. J. (1980) ‘An examination of differences between non-clinic and behaviour problem clinic referred children and their
mothers’, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 89 (3), pp
Hardiker, P., Exton, K. and Barker, M. (1991) Policies and Practice in Preventive Child Care,
Hardiker, P., Exton, K. and Barker, M. (1996) ‘A framework for analysing services’, in Childhood Matters: Report of the National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child
Hess, R. D. (1981) ‘Approaches to the measurement and interpretation of parent-child interaction’ in Henderson, R.W. (ed.), Parent-Child Interaction. Theory, Research and Prospects,
London, Academic Press Inc.
Hetherington, E. M. (1981) ‘Children and divorce’, in Henderson, R.W. (ed.), Parent-Child
Interaction: Theory, Research and Prospects, London, Academic Press Inc.
Hetherington, E. M. and Jodl, K. M. (1994) ‘Stepfamilies as settings for child development’,
in Booth, A
Howitt, D. (1992) Child Abuse Errors: When Good Intentions Go Wrong, Hemel Hempstead,
Jenner, S. and McCarthy, G. (1995) ‘Quantitative measures of parenting—clinical, developmental perspective’, in Reder, P. and Lucy, C. (eds.), Assessment of Parenting—Psychiatric
and Psychological Contributions, London, Routledge.
Katz, A., Buchanan, A. and McCoy A. (1999) Leading Lads Young Voice, Arcadia, University
Kline, P. (1972) Fact or Fantasy in Freudian Theory, Methuen.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document