Six: Social work and reproduction: regulation and family life

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This chapter considers social work’s response to theories of ‘reproduction’ and ‘relationships’, especially given the feminised nature of social work. It explores typical case scenarios and examines the extent to which social work practice supports traditional family responsibilities that underpin the post-industrial economy.

One of the aims is to demonstrate the significance of sociological approaches for practice, especially in relation to social exclusion and poverty, and to use different methods in doing so. Chapter Two, with its historical emphasis, identified some enduring tensions in social work that, it is suggested, are highlighted by a sociological approach, which necessitates an analysis of the relationship between people, society and social work. This was followed by an examination of the concept of ‘production and work’ and its relevance to social work practice. This chapter begins with some case studies and invites the reader to engage with a series of questions, drawn from the material relating to ‘reproduction’. There follows a discussion of the case studies around those themes, incorporating further aspects of sociological inquiry.

When reading through the case studies, note down the links to the theories outlined in the previous chapter, and try to link these to theories of production identified in the earlier section, since the two are not easily separated. As you will no doubt soon become aware, there are many issues and discussion points in the case studies. This shows the interdisciplinary nature of social work. For example, in case study 1, you could think about the question of mother/parent–child attachment (Bowlby, 1953; Rutter, 1972; Howe, 1987; Fahlberg, 1994).

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