Operationalizing the concept of resilience in child neglect: case study research

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There is a considerable amount of interest in resilience as a concept for child care and protection practice. This paper describes an exploratory project that drew on a set of case studies to explore the extent to which the concept of resilience can be operationalized for use with neglected children in the context of statutory social work.


The study was carried out within a local authority in Scotland and focused on the value of the concept as an aid to assessment and planning. The study built on a published workbook that provides a structure for the assessment of potential areas of resilience and gives detailed suggestions for intervention in six domains of a child's life. Eight neglected children aged between five and 11 were recruited. Six training days on the concept were held. Questionnaires were used to gather information about the theoretical frameworks already being used. At the end of the study, semi-structured interviews were carried out with the social workers about the value of the concept. Assessment reports completed before and after the training were analysed.


Findings indicated that participants were familiar with the concept of resilience and that the training helped enhance their understanding of the concept. Training assisted with the provision of a more structured approach to assessment and planning. Respondents reported that the approach enhanced their knowledge of the child and they were able to identify areas for development in the six domains.


The study indicated that the concept of resilience can be operationalized for use with neglected children. Further, the case studies raised the issue of the extent to which the need for a secure base underpins other domains. The domain of positive values was also highlighted as an important area for further exploration.

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