Social workers' reflexive understandings of their “everyday” communications with children

Mark Hadfield, Gillian Ruch, Karen Winter, Viviene Cree, Fiona Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the past two decades, the use of ethnographic research methods, in combination with a range of discursive, conversational, and multimodal analytical approaches, have provided vivid accounts of the complex nature of social workers' everyday communication. This paper discusses the potential and the problems of combining a video-stimulated recall methodology with an explicit theoretical framework, in order to generate critical reflexive “insider” accounts of social workers' direct encounters with children. The framework employed was based on an adaptation of Goffman's concepts of “framing” and “footing,” which were integrated into an analytical process designed to theorize social workers' critiques regarding the nature of their communication with children. Three detailed case exemplars are used to demonstrate the potential of this methodology to explore the “delicate” agency required by social workers in the practice of authentic communication in complex professional inquiries with children. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the theoretical and practical issues associated with utilizing reflexive methodologies in professional contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Early online date10 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Oct 2019


  • child care
  • communication
  • professional agency
  • social work


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