Piper, Christine (2011) Revealing Child Neglect: what is made visible depends on the methods used. In: Understanding the Social World Conference 2011, 13th - 15th July 2011, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

Child Neglect is a difficult and complex area of child welfare professional practice (Tanner & Turney, 2003) and despite being the commonest child protection category, it is described as the least well understood type of child maltreatment and the least researched (McSherry, 2007). This research was carried out using a social constructionist approach (Robson, 2008), to explore child welfare professionals’ perspectives of child neglect and aims to contribute to our understanding about how child welfare professionals construct cases as child neglect in contemporary English society.

To order to describe and critically analyse the knowledge and practices of child welfare professionals in a range of roles and organisational settings, an ethnographic case study approach was used. I planned to observe social workers at their place of work, to understand their perspectives of child neglect and to use this information to guide further data collection. The other data collected were written texts (child protection case conference minutes) and interviews with a purposive sample of child welfare professionals. The use of three methods of data collection was planned as a strategy to promote the quality of the data (Flick, 2007). However, the participation observation sessions were only possible in the final months of the data collection period.

This paper discusses how the analysis and description of perspectives and features of child neglect cases would have been very different if only the written texts and interviews had been used for data analysis. Completing the participant observation sessions led to different insights.

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