Social Work - Theses

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    Young men speak: a study of mid-adolescence and masculinity
    This study investigated the effect of dominant notions of masculinity in the lives of mid-adolescent males. A qualitative research design, based on the analysis of transcripts of in-depth interviews with eight sixteen and seventeen year-old young men, confirmed the existence of a harsh masculine culture that impinged significantly on their behaviour and attitudes. The findings are identified a possible turning point in young men’s lives, where they begin to develop highly valued close relationships with a small group of friends or mates, with whom they share and emotional bond, and around whom they feel less pressure to prove their manliness. While they described the possibility of sharing thoughts, and feelings and experiences, there were nevertheless limits to what was allowed to be spoken even between the closest of friends. These restrictions were attributable to the sanctions that operated to maintain an environment significantly influenced by dominant notion of masculinity, and in which these friendship groups were embedded. The young men conformed to the tacit restrictions on intimacy, from fear of exposing themselves as weak or poorly skilled. Nevertheless, participants demonstrated a developmental readiness for intimacy, and were beginning to experience emotional engagement with male or female peers. The study suggests the need for a new concept that values and acknowledges a sense of emotional connectedness in the absence of sharing verbalised thoughts and feelings. With intimacy constrained, and little discussion of personal issues, young men had inadequate knowledge of the complexity of problems that might confront them, and few models of coping strategies. Consequently, they risked feeling isolated and unresourced in times of stress. Similarly, while they recognised signs of stress in others, they had few helping skills. In any case, dominant masculinity required that young men handle their own problems, without showing any vulnerability. Counselling was seen as an ultimate failure of manliness. There were indications of intergender rivalry, and despite attempts to be fair and equitable, an underlying belief that men should be in control in families and relationships. Rock music was clearly a potent positive element in the lives of young men, and served a variety of purposes. Alcohol gave individual and group release from the debilitating restrictions of masculinity, removing the need for self-control and allowing greater intimacy. The young men showed they were able to discriminate between “real life” and media or sporting images of masculinity, and had independently identified personal role models from within their own family or friendships circles. This study has shown the importance of understanding the adolescent male world from his own perspective. In particular, it demonstrates the degree to which masculinity impacts on the adolescent behaviour and attitudes, and highlights the necessity for Social Work practitioners to factor the masculine code of behaviour into case and programme planning. Moreover, it is suggested that Social Workers take a proactive approach to teaching young men the language and skills to understand masculinity, and to pursue identity formation and the establishment of positive relationships despite its impact on their lives.
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    Family reunification : the journey home
    JACKSON, ANNETTE ( 1997-07)
    Within the child protection system, children are separated from their parents in different ways and for different reasons. Family reunification following these separations, similarly occurs in a variety of ways and is experienced differently by those involved. Through a qualitative design, this study gathered together a range of perspectives regarding the experiences, emotions and beliefs of those involved in family reunification. By interviewing parents, protective workers, caregivers, family support workers, family preservation workers, health workers and others, the researcher hoped to capture their wisdom and insight. Overall, 38 people were interviewed in relation to five examples of reunification. Key concepts and categories were derived from the interviews in conjunction with descriptions of the cases. The researcher then developed a pathways tool which documented the journeys travelled through the process of reunification. Although all the children in these examples of reunification returned to their parents’ care and were still there up to two years later, there were different opinions as to whether or not the reunification was successful, and what barriers hindered and what strategies led to success. The different definitions of success appeared to be greatly influenced by the participants’ assumptions and perspectives regarding the role of state intervention in the lives of families. The findings in this research included a broader understanding of the emotional reactions of parents, caregivers and workers. The enormous sense of loss and other strong emotions felt by parents were often experienced prior to the children being removed, as well as during the separation itself. This therefore challenged the concept of filial deprivation being limited to physical separation of children from their parents and subsequently raised a number of practice issues. Many of the workers and caregivers also described feelings of powerlessness, lack of control and being confronted with limited options. Some of the workers, however, spoke of reunification as a more positive and fulfilling experience than other aspects of their work, even though it involved significant risk and difficult decisions. The principles under lying reunification practice, as outlined in the literature, were evident in aspects of the cases to a varying extent. Opportunities for parents to be actively involved in their children’s placements ranged from no contact with the carer, to visiting almost every day and being actively involved in all decisions. There were some principles which were absent in all of the case examples, such as none of the children experienced continuity of care due to being in multiple placements. There were descriptions of several service models involved at different times and stages along the families’ pathway through reunification, including different reunification programs. There did not appear to be any clarity regarding when a family would be referred to one type of service compared to another. There was also discussion regarding the influence of universal services, such as schools, on the family members’ experience of being included or isolated in each other’s lives. Dilemmas and challenges which arose through reunification included those which were common to many fields in social work, such as clashes of values and beliefs and needing to make decisions between limited and inadequate options. Some of the complex issues particularly relating to reunification were the impact of the separation on children and parents, and the experience of being a ‘parentless child’ or a ‘childless parent’. This was an example of the meaning of an issue being subjective and as important as the factual information. Some of the practice issues which arose through this study included: discussion regarding operationalising permanency planning principles rather than focussing on a parents’ rights or children’s rights dichotomy; developing a partnership perspective with parents, caregivers and workers; the importance of planning and preparation before reunification; whether to celebrate the day of home return or plan it to be as uneventful as possible; and the support and services required following the children’s return home. There were also a number of recommendations made for future research which could further inform practice in working with children and their families through the process of reunification.