Detecting parental deception in the child safeguarding context

Leah Alexandra Fox*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Amid a scarce body of literature examining the ability of practitioners to distinguish between truthful and deceptive behaviours by parents, this qualitative study evaluated how social workers, healthcare professionals and police officers identified parental deception in child safeguarding contexts. Using constructivist grounded theory, primary data were obtained through interviews and observations with multiagency child safeguarding professionals from three local authorities in England. Results indicate that multiagency practitioners identify and respond differently to features of parental deception. Social workers and healthcare practitioners distinguish between malicious and benign parental deception, and do not acknowledge benign untruths told by parents as lies. All practitioners in the police, social work and healthcare are familiar with various parental deception tactics in their practices, and they rely on their intuition and practice wisdom in detecting deception.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2727
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • deception detection
  • disguised compliance
  • parental deception
  • child safeguarding professionals
  • safeguarding children


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