Male Social Workers in Child and Family Welfare: New Directions for Research

By Gillingham, Philip | Social Work, January 2006 | Go to article overview

Male Social Workers in Child and Family Welfare: New Directions for Research


Gillingham, Philip, Social Work


Men in social work and, more particularly, in direct child and family welfare practice are in the minority (Christie, 2001), and little has been written and researched about their experiences and their contributions to practice with children and families (Camilleri & Jones, 2001; Pease & Camilleri, 2001). In this commentary, I reflect on the developments in theory and research about male social workers in child and family welfare to consider why there might be a lack of research in this area, why more research needs to be conducted, and how such research in this area needs to be refocused.

Given that there are relatively fewer men than women in social work, it is considered a nontraditional occupation for men, and the public perceives it as a feminine profession (Christie, 2001). This characterization of social work has led to speculation that male social workers experience dissonance between their personal identity as men and their professional identity (Williams, 1993, 1995). Male social workers may adopt various strategies to cope with this dissonance, notably specializing in areas that involve the exercise of statutory power, such as mental health and child protection, rather than, for example, aged care and hospital social work. A particularly important strategy adopted by male social workers is to move into management positions, a process assisted by the "glass elevator" which speeds their ascent in comparison with their female colleagues (Williams, 1993, 1995). It has been questioned whether such strategies to reduce dissonance overemphasize the ability of men to negotiate their positions in the organizations that employ them: There may be other factors affecting where men are employed in social work, such as labor market changes and career structures, but there may also be more subtle processes at work (Christie, 1998).

One such subtle process that perhaps explains why men in caring professions tend to become managers quickly is the distinction between "caring for" and "caring about" people (Camilleri & Jones, 2001). Caring for people involves intimate and personal relationships and is perceived as a task for women, whereas caring about people is an intellectual activity that does not denote intimacy, indeed the opposite, making distance integral to the process of taking an objective view. Hence, in welfare agencies that reproduce the patriarchal relations of society, caring about people becomes a "male" task. The female task of caring for becomes devalued, whereas the male task of caring about is elevated by its association with rationality and knowledge. Through this process men are more likely to end up in positions associated with the allocation of resources and the exercise of power and control.

The position of male social workers in direct practice in child and family welfare is contentious given that men commit the vast majority of physical and sexual assaults against women and children. This contention has been heightened in the United Kingdom following major inquiries into allegations by children in state care that they have been sexually and physically abused by male care staff (Christie, 1998). Debate has ensued about whether the practice and roles of male social workers should be restricted and even whether men should be employed in areas of practice involving vulnerable children (Pringle, 2001). The motivation of male social workers has been questioned: Homosexual social workers report that their motivation for wanting to work with children is called into question because of their sexuality (Hicks, 2001). The experience of heterosexual male social workers may be similar, given that they and their female colleagues are more aware than most that (apparently) heterosexual men are statistically more likely to sexually abuse children (Scourfield & Coffey, 2002). Consequently, male social workers in child protection practice may have to cope with antimale sentiment from female colleagues, victims of child abuse, and the parents of children (Hood, 2001). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Male Social Workers in Child and Family Welfare: New Directions for Research
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.