The shame and shaming of parents in the child protection process: findings from a case study of an English child protection service

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Given that research identifies parental experiences of shame and humiliation in the child protection process, this paper reports on a qualitative study that investigated how and why parents experienced such emotions within the English system. This is the first study to investigate such experiences by using participant observation, which enabled the collection of data of real-time emotional experiences and practices. These experiences are analysed within the context of wider reforms of the English child protection system and identify not only the structural and systemic reasons that embed parental experiences of shame into the process, but also the societal processes that support practitioners to shame, and even humiliate, parents. These processes are detailed and the shaming of parents illustrated. Rather than such experiences being seen as outcomes of poor practice, social workers can be considered to be doing a good job at the same time as shaming a parent.


Original languageEnglish
JournalFamilies, Relationships and Societies
Early online date30 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 May 2019


  • Qualitative, Study, Child Protection, Emotions, Experiences, Parents, Shame, Humiliation