Decision Making in Children and Families Social Work: The Practitioner's Voice

Louise O'Connor, Kate Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents findings from an exploratory qualitative study into the factors that influence practitioner decision making in children and families social work practice. The findings highlight the complex and multi-layered factors which influence decision-making processes. The voices of front line practitioners and students on placement provide insight into the subtleties and challenges of contemporary practice in the UK. A grounded theory approach was used to analyse the data. Core categories which emerged included impact of emotions, passing of time and strength of voice. The findings indicate a continuum of professional development and the significance of time in the learning process. Ambivalence about professional voice is interwoven with developing expertise, levels of discretion and emotional responses. Similarities and differences are indicated between qualified and student practitioners. This paper concludes with a consideration of pedagogical and practice implications. Models for supervision and critical reflection are proposed which could be incorporated more explicitly into an integrated practice and academic curriculum for social work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Early online date19 Feb 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Decision making, emotion, time, social work voice, children and families
  • continuing professional development

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