Research Output

"It's just the abuse that needs to stop": Social worker decision making regarding sibling living and contact arrangements in cases involving sibling sexual behaviour

  Somewhere between a third and a half of sexual abuse perpetrated by children and young people involves siblings as victims (Hackett et al., 1998; Ryan 2010). Sibling sexual abuse often requires very difficult decisions to be made regarding whether or not siblings can remain living together following the abuse becoming known, if separated whether they can maintain contact with each other, and at what point they may return to live together again. Whereas the welfare of the child would normally be the paramount concern in the decisions of child and family social workers, cases in which a child in the family is the source of risk raise an unusual problem for social workers in having to decide which child’s welfare should take priority.

This seminar will present an overview of the current literature on sibling sexual abuse relevant to these challenges, before exploring selected findings from recently completed doctoral study of social workers’ accounts of their decision making regarding sibling living and contact arrangements following sibling sexual abuse becoming known. In-depth interviews were conducted with 21 social workers across 6 local authorities in Scotland, in relation to 21 families in which 54 children had been involved in sibling sexual behaviour. The interviews were conducted and analysed using a constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2006) and a model developed of social worker decision making in these cases. The study found that within the context of considerable uncertainty, social workers made largely intuitive decisions influenced by their relationships with families and by their underlying ‘frames’: children as vulnerable and intending no sexual harm to others; sibling relationships as non-abusive and of intrinsic value; and parents as well-intentioned protective. The findings support Dingwall’s (1983) ‘rule of optimism’ with respect to social worker-parent relations, and where a child in the family is the source of abuse the model extends the rule through social workers’ constructions of children and sibling relationships. The seminar will discuss the implications of these findings and conclude with recommendations for practice.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    28 September 2016

  • Publication Status:

    Unpublished

  • Library of Congress:

    HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    362 Social welfare problems & services

Citation

Yates, P. (2016, September). "It's just the abuse that needs to stop": Social worker decision making regarding sibling living and contact arrangements in cases involving sibling sexual behaviour. Paper presented at NOTA Annual Conference, Brighton, UK

Authors

Keywords

Sexual behaviour, child abuse, sibling relationships,

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