Early help for families where there is child neglect
: a qualitative study

  • David Hogg

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


There is a substantial body of research on the nature of child neglect, its impact on children and how professionals respond. National initiatives have promoted early help to prevent escalation of family problems more generally. Research has begun to bring these strands together to examine early help in the context of child neglect.

This small scale qualitative study investigates early help for families where there is neglect of young children. Taking a social constructionist approach, it explores the experiences of families where there has been child neglect, and of practitioners and community members who work with them. Thirty-five participants took part through five focus groups (practitioners and community members) and five semi-structured interviews (parent/carers) to examine how people understand the constructs, how services respond to different early levels of neglect, factors influencing access to early help and possible improvements in how help is provided.

Data is analysed using NVivo11 software, and thematic network analysis. Interpretation of findings draws upon ideas from ecological analysis and street level bureaucracy. A change of work role for the author part way through permits comparison of researching as an insider and as an outsider.

Practitioners and community members show broad understanding of neglect with community members showing more clarity about emotional neglect. Parents see the issues as reflecting the practical challenges they face rather than being about neglect as such. Inhibiting factors preventing earlier help are outlined for parents (fear of their children being removed, lack of awareness of the need, not knowing what help is available) and for practitioners (workload pressures, a ‘referring-on’ culture, achieving parental commitment). Practitioner groups recognise and respond differentially to different early levels of neglect without any shared overall model for early help. The dual researcher roles (insider and outsider) identified lessons for organisationally based research. Implications for children’s services practice and for further research are outlined.
Date of AwardJan 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKieron Hatton (Supervisor) & John Crossland (Supervisor)

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