Children, Young People and Families

Titles on our Children, Young People and Families list range from bestselling textbooks, including the Open University Childhood series, critical monographs such as those in the international Sociology of Children and Families series and the Families, Relationships and Societies journal.  

Long-established, this interdisciplinary list brings together work across Childhood Studies, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology. It supports students in their successful study, challenges current policy and practice and offers practical guidance to those working with children and young people in often difficult circumstances.

Children, Young People and Families

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This concluding chapter is authored by the editors of the collection and seeks to bring together the main, overarching themes of the book. In doing so it reminds the reader of the Women, Family, Crime and Justice’s (WFCJ’s) main aims and purpose, and recaps on the work undertaken by members of the network to date. It then goes on to discuss the books two major themes: the punishment of women in the criminal justice system and experiences of violence, abuse and justice. In discussing the mentioned themes, the chapter reiterates arguments of inadequacy of current criminal justice interventions which often result in a failure to meet needs, and the need for effective social change and justice.

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This chapter draws from auto/biographical reflections from working in a women’s centre. The site and all names have been anonymised but feed into a wider discussion of the troubling relationship between women’s centres and the marketisation of rehabilitation. Auto/biography provides an invaluable way of demonstrating that the feminist researcher cannot be separated from the research (Ahearne, 2021; Baldwin, 2021). Alternatives to custodial sentencing for women are often uncritically considered to be a positive step in criminal justice reform. This chapter interrogates the harms that can arise from the (mis)use of punishment in women’s centres and the empty neoliberal rhetoric of ‘empowerment’ that is not trauma-informed and does not seek to challenge the state’s powers and the feminisation of poverty. This neoliberal governance is part of commodifying service users as ‘bums on seats’. This also raises the importance of understanding ‘radical’ alternatives to imprisonment as being on a spectrum of decarceration (Terweil, 2020) and not accepting binary understandings of reform versus abolitionism.

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Volume 2

Women and families within the criminal justice system (CJS) are increasingly the focus of research and this book considers the timely issues of intersectionality, violence and gender. With insights from frontline practice and from the lived experiences of women, the collection examines prison experiences in a post-COVID-19 world, domestic violence and the successes and failures of family support.

A companion to the first edited collection, Critical Reflections on Women, Family, Crime and Justice, the book sheds new light on the challenges and experiences of women and families who encounter the CJS.

Accessible to both academics and practitioners and with real-world policy recommendations, this collection demonstrates how positive change can be achieved.

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An evolving body of academic work is examining women’s experiences of online misogyny: aggressive, threatening or offensive communications and behaviours directed at women and affecting their participation in online spaces. Responses to experiencing this abuse are varied, and categorised by Jane (2017b) into ‘fight and flight’. Developing Jane’s taxonomical approach, this chapter examines some of the approaches women use to deal with online abuse. While a traditional understanding of justice is one which involves engagement with formal reporting systems, such as the criminal justice system and complaints to social media companies, these are not always seen as viable for women facing online abuse. Instead, alternative routes to justice have been sought and used, which are the focus of this chapter.

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This introductory chapter opens the edited collection by restating the position, perspective and purpose of the authors/editors of the book who co-convene the Women, Family, Crime and Justice (WFCJ) network. The editors articulate their disappointment at the lack of meaningful change within the criminal and social justice areas associated with the WFCJ network, and the damaging consequences this brings to women and families. It goes on to explain how this second volume both complements the first (Masson et al, 2021) but is appropriately distinct, shedding light on different, but overlapping, issues facing women and families in the current climate.

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Before the COVID-19 pandemic, research demonstrated that prison was unhealthy and unsafe for pregnant women (Abbott, 2018; Davies et al 2020). Experiences of being locked inside a prison cell made physiological symptoms of pregnancy harder to manage and generated feelings of anxiety and discomfort. Findings presented in this chapter are from a pilot study which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic which shed light on the challenges during this unique time. Audio-recorded, qualitative, in-depth interviews were conducted virtually with women who provide, or who have provided, pregnancy and birth support in English prisons. This chapter presents the key findings, including: mental health versus physical risk of COVID-19, virtual support, virtual decision making and being released from prison into a global pandemic.

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This second volume from the Women, Family, Crime and Justice (WFCJ) network draws attention to current, real-life issues relating to the experiences, perceptions and social and criminal justice environments for women and families. The current edited collection has a dual focus: the punishment of women in the criminal justice system and violence, abuse and justice experiences. The first theme explores punishments experienced by pregnant prisoners, within an English women’s centre and by ‘BAME’ women supporting incarcerated loved ones. The second theme examines abusive relationships for LGB and/or T+ people, abuse perpetrated by imprisoned women and online misogyny. This unique collection brings together the voices, research and experience of academics, practitioners and service users. In doing so, it outlines the diverse and varied social injustices that continue to trouble those in our communities affected by the criminal justice system.

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Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) affects many LGB and/or T+ people’s relationships, yet victims/survivors rarely seek help from the police or specialist DVA support services. This chapter reports on findings from the ‘Coral Project’, which focused on LGB and/or T+ people’s use of abusive behaviours. Focus groups were conducted with practitioners in what we term ‘relationships services’, working directly or indirectly supporting people with their intimate relationships. The analysis revealed varying conceptualisations of DVA in different practice cultures and an unmet need for support for DVA which falls below the threshold for criminal justice or specialist DVA service intervention. We conclude with recommendations for providing more inclusive and accessible relationships services.

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Prisoners’ families remain silent victims due to their association with the person criminalised and imprisoned. Many families are likely Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals, given that BAME prisoners are disproportionately represented in prison, despite representing only 14 per cent of the general UK population (Farmer, 2017). Frontline support in the community is essential; it should be included and considered within policy and governmental initiatives. Drawing on our frontline practitioner roles at Himaya Haven CIC, this chapter outlines culturally specific and gendered challenges facing BAME women and children supporting male imprisoned relatives. This is achieved through three themes: 1) Blame and stigma, 2) Financial difficulties, and 3) Children and young people’s experiences. Recommendations for inter-agency interaction and multi-agency partnerships/working are proposed.

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There is growing recognition that women perpetrate intimate partner violence and abuse (IPVA) for reasons other than self-defence. This is reflected in increasing numbers of women entering the criminal justice system for IPVA-related offences. To understand more about these issues, interviews were conducted with 15 women in prison for an IPVA-related offence. Analysis revealed that perpetration of IPVA was often motivated by a need to take back control, an anticipation of being hurt in relationships and cyclical, negative dynamics of their interpersonal relationships. Women’s behaviour was situated against a backdrop of complex trauma and chaotic living situations. Theoretical explanations must incorporate the impact of trauma and mental health issues as perpetuating factors, and interventions offered should be trauma-informed.

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