The Exodus of Violence: How Child Protection Reframes Abuse and Neglect.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:42
Oral Presentation
Lars ALBERTH, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany
Despite a myopy of definitorial approaches to phenomena subsumed under the category "child abuse and neglect", all are grounded in the idea, that children are harmed by other persons, especially parents, whose behavior resulted in abuse or neglect. At the core, concepts of child abuse and neglect therefore follow a discourse of violence, which operates on the basis of three "vernacular" objects (Ibarra/KIitsuse): perpetratorship, victimship, and harmful behavior.

Interviews with child protection social workers in Germany show, however, that the professional intervention systematically transforms all three "vernacular" objects, replacing the public discourse of violence by a professional rhetoric of unreason: (1) "perpetratorship" is substituted by the vernacular object of the "overburdened mother", whose rational agency is called into doubt; (2) "harmful behavior" is either framed as circumstantial to the "unreasonable conduct" of the client or replaced by the notion of "unwillingness" or "inability" of the mother to comply with the rational intervention; (3) children are either not portrayed at all or are portrayed as "troublemakers" - the category of "victimship" is either made invisible, transformed into "irrational agency" or even transferred to the professionals, who then put themselves in a vulnerable position when facing clients.

This analysis shows how professional social problems work (Miller/Holstein) depends on the transformation of a moral discourse by presenting an alternative definition of the social problem and thereby justifying their professional claims. Furthermore, the case of child protection social work highlights the interweaving of the generational order and professional moral enterpreneurship.