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Strategies to increase fathers' engagement in child protection investigations due to domestic partner abuse in Sweden
Malmö University, Faculty of Health and Society (HS), Department of Social Work (SA).ORCID iD: 0009-0001-8675-4641
School of Social Work University of Lund, Lund Sweden.
Malmö University, Faculty of Health and Society (HS), Department of Social Work (SA).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4663-4004
2023 (English)In: Child & Family Social Work, ISSN 1356-7500, E-ISSN 1365-2206Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Social workers often fail to engage fathers in child protection investigations (CPIs), especially when they involve domestic abuse (DA) by fathers. The aim of this study is to examine the strategies used by social workers to achieve cooperation with fathers in CPIs that involve the father being suspected of DA against the child's mother. With the use of qualitative methods, we conducted 31 semi-structured interviews with 15 social workers during their work on 12 CPI cases. Through thematic analysis, two main strategies for achieving cooperation were created: (1) Securing an Initial Bond, which involved reducing the tension in CPI proceedings and affirming the father; (2) Maintaining the Bond while addressing the father's abusive behaviour, which involved negotiating with fathers about the DA and helping them shift their perspective on how their behaviour has impacted the victims. This analysis is rooted in the framework of shame, guilt and social bonds. However, there is a risk that these strategies may lead to the DA being minimized or overlooked. Striking a balance between building a bond and addressing abuse is crucial, and the timing of addressing DA plays a central role. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2023.
Keywords [en]
child protection, cooperation, domestic abuse, fathers, social workers, strategies
National Category
Social Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-66828DOI: 10.1111/cfs.13126ISI: 001133098900001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85180895889OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-66828DiVA, id: diva2:1853391
Available from: 2024-04-22 Created: 2024-04-22 Last updated: 2024-05-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Skam, moralarbete och faderskap: en studie om mötet mellan socialsekreterare och pappor vid våld i nära relationer
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Skam, moralarbete och faderskap: en studie om mötet mellan socialsekreterare och pappor vid våld i nära relationer
2024 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Men's domestic violence and/or abuse (DVA) is a widespread social issue. Often, the men are fathers, and the victims are mothers and children. In Sweden, social workers (SWs) are expected to involve these fathers in child protection investigations (CPIs) and work towards changing their behavior. However, engaging fathers in CPIs has proven to be a challenging task, especially when they involve DVA by fathers. The overall aim of this licentiate thesis is to examine how fathers can be engaged in CPIs initiated as a result of their suspected DVA against the mothers of their children. The licentiate thesis is a compilation thesis that consist of two articles, with the first having been published in a peer-review journal and the second submitted to a journal awaiting review. Using qualitative methods. I conducted semi structured interviews with 15 social workers on a total of 31 occasions during their work with 12 ongoing CPIs. Seven fathers have also been interviewed. The interviewed fathers had been involved in CPIs as a result of their DVA against the mothers of their children and had undergone treatment targeting their violent/abusive behavior.

The interviews with the SWs are addressed in the first article, and the interviews with the fathers in the second article. The data were analysed using thematic analysis. The first article examines the strategies used by SWs to achieve cooperation with fathers in CPIs that involve the father being suspected of DVA against the child's mother. This analysis is rooted in the framework of shame, guilt, and social bonds. The results suggest that whether social workers succeed in achieving cooperation with fathers is related to the social workers' strategies of building secure social bonds with the fathers, which may alleviate the fathers' feelings of shame. However, there is a risk that these strategies may lead to DVA being minimized or overlooked. Striking a balance between building a social bond and addressing DVA is crucial, and the timing of addressing DVA plays a central role. The second article highlights fathers' experiences of interactions with SWs in the context of CPIs initiated as a result of their DVA against the mothers of their children. In particular, the focus is directed at how ideals of fatherhood, power relations, and shame influence fathers' experiences of engaging in these meetings. The analysis is guided by shame, guilt and social bonds linked to a gender theoretical framework. The results suggest that DVA contributes to fathers violating moral ideals of good fatherhood, which threatens to deprive them of contact with their children and also triggers feelings of shame. In the CPIs, it is the SWs, often female, who hold power over the processes while fathers are subordinated, which challenges expected power structures and hegemonic masculinity ideals. Fathers' engagement in CPIs is enabled when fathers adopt a subordinate position, which is facilitated by SWs meeting them with care and non-judgmental attitudes. This subordinate position can be a useful means for fathers to maintain an intact masculine position when DVA is exposed, shame is triggered, and their fatherhood and social bonds are threatened. However, SWs need to be attentive to the risk that fathers may both downplay their DVA and adopt positions that may be perceived as caring, egalitarian, and change-oriented even though their dominance – in the form of DVA – may persist.

In summary, the study indicates that it is challenging but possible to successfully engage these fathers in CPIs. The study suggests that SWs need to balance building social bonds with the fathers and addressing the violence without imposing further shame. The findings highlight a particularly crucial aspect in the interaction, which is the SWs' ability to meet the fathers in a way that they do not feel judged for who they are - perpetrators of DVA. Instead, focusing on the violence as actions, on what they have done. In doing so, actions are separated from the self and can instead manifest as guilt. This approach can both facilitate fathers' engagement in CPIs and point towards taking responsibility for and changing the violent/abusive behaviors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö University Press, 2024. p. 93
Series
FoU-rapport, ISSN 1650-2337
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Health and society
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-67253 (URN)10.24834/isbn.9789178774760 (DOI)978-91-7877-476-0 (ISBN)978-91-7877-476-0 (ISBN)
Presentation
2024-06-10, Malmö University, Niagara NI: C0E11, Nordenskiöldsgatan 1, Malmö, 13:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Paper II is not included in the fulltext online.

Paper II  in dissertation as manuscript.

Available from: 2024-05-17 Created: 2024-05-16 Last updated: 2024-06-17Bibliographically approved

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Grönte, MariaPlantin, Lars

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