Our Penultimate Extract From ‘Observing Children and Families’

Our books always encourage critical thinking and Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ is especially successful in finding clear and concise methods for achieving that.

We have a pretty morbid extract today, (sorry folks), on child death. A very interesting read so take a look.

Note: She is commenting on studies of child death enquiries discussed on previous pages.



As I have read these, and many other reviews I was struck by the reliance on how parents presented and on what they told practitioners, in contrast to the limited attention paid to listening to children, observing and understanding their lived experience.  The impact of scepticism about the competence of children is illustrated in an analysis of some 45 child abuse inquiry reports between 1973-1994 undertaken by Munro (1999: 752). She found that in the ten cases where communication with children was considered, what children said was listened to when it corresponded with the social worker’s existing view and ignored when it did not. Hence, in three cases where the children said they were abused and it was true, they were not believed.   This does suggest that careful thought needs to be given to perceptions of children and the value, or lack of value, that we accord to what they say, what they do and to time spent being with them.

What also emerges is that the reasons why the parents and carers of these children have killed them are inevitably complex and whilst a better understanding of the impact of our perceptions of children should be very helpful, it is clearly not the only reason for the persistence of the difficulties in really seeing and hearing children.  It does however provide the context that frames individual practitioners thinking.  So next, we will begin to consider issues that emerge at a personal level that may contribute to these difficulties.

To have a look at these case studies yourself, see here. Why not formulate your own opinions and contact us with feedback?

We have one more extract for you so keep up to date by liking our page on Facebook or following us on Twitter or Instagram!


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