Constructing professional identity in child protection : A comparative ethnography

Leigh, JT 2013, Constructing professional identity in child protection : A comparative ethnography , PhD thesis, University of Salford.

PDF (PhD thesis) - Accepted Version
Download (2MB) | Preview


This doctoral study explores what being a professional in child protection social work actually means to those working within this context. In an attempt to unravel the meaning of professional identity for social workers, I carried out an ethnography ‘at home’. But in order to create that passage of space and time between me and the discourse I currently employed, I also decided to observe the Flemish child protection system. This study has, therefore, a comparative element. My analytic focus has been drawn towards certain cultural factors which impact upon and influence the ways practitioners construct their identities. By considering where professionals are located, in the North West of England and Flanders, I wanted to explore the systems for which they work; systems embedded in unique yet diverse cultures which collectively impact on the practitioner in some shape or form. Data analysis has involved material from interviews, naturally occurring talk, electronic information (case notes, reports and emails), photographs, organisational policy and procedures. The findings demonstrate that social workers in England are firmly situated within an incongruent agency which is entrenched in a context of blame. Subsequently, a blame posture has been established which further encourages various forms of destructive discourse to emerge. Practitioners also find they are stigmatised and labelled as professional failures by both society and the agency they work for. In Flanders, however, by drawing from a discourse which evokes compassion for abusers, child protection professionals perceive themselves differently. As well as feeling confident and passionate about their practice they feel valued and revered by their agency and society. If our identity is constructed out of the discourses which are made culturally available to us then this comparative ethnography shows just how and why the practitioners from these two settings perceive their own professional identities so considerably differently.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Contributors: Hicks, S (Supervisor) and Wray, J (Supervisor)
Themes: Health and Wellbeing
Subjects outside of the University Themes
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Funders: University of Salford
Depositing User: JT Leigh
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2013 17:03
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 23:05

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year