Attachment, Trauma and Parenting in Social Work Practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis seeks to examine qualitatively key influencing factors on the outcomes and experiences of parent-infant intervention. The participant group were selected based on their attachment trauma history and their involvement with children’s services. The intervention they received consisted of either a parent-infant foster placement, a residential assessment unit and/or parent-infant psychotherapy. Participants were interviewed on three separate occasions, once at the start of their placement, once during their placement and then after their placement had ended, when the outcome of their assessment was decided. In some cases, this outcome consisted of returning back into the community with their babies and for others, who had been unsuccessful in their assessments, the court granted social services removal of their baby.
The interviews were analysed thematically with the aim of exploring whether key patterns and themes emerged based on the outcomes of their assessment. In terms of the participants who were successful, the key themes that emerged from their interviews included four ‘change facilitators’: ‘Acceptance’, ‘Determination’, ‘Mentalization’ and ‘Connection with past trauma’. For the group whose babies were removed from their care, the key themes comprised three ‘change inhibitors’: ‘Denial’, ‘Low Mentalization’ and ‘Disconnect with past trauma’.
The ‘change facilitators and inhibitors’ could constitute a basis for practitioners to gauge progress in respect of all forms of help and support, not just psychosocial, in ways that do not rely solely on the behaviours of the parent and/or their infant, nor simply on the veridical account of the adult.
The findings also highlight the benefit of using an attachment and trauma lens when working with parents, particularly if they have a history of attachment based trauma. In addition, the need for access to therapeutic resources for families when there are child protection concerns is also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Shemmings, David , Supervisor, External person
  • Gupta, Anna, Supervisor
Award date1 Nov 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 8 Oct 2018

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