Journal Article

Re-Thinking Harm and Abuse: Insights from a Lifespan Perspective

Brigid Daniel and Alison Bowes

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 5, pages 820-836
Published in print July 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online December 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Re-Thinking Harm and Abuse: Insights from a Lifespan Perspective

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The scope of protection from harm and abuse is rapidly expanding, and practice frameworks have tended to transfer and adapt child protection procedures for the protection of other groups. However there has been little in-depth analysis of the theoretical perspectives that underlie interventions within particular fields and almost nothing across areas such as significant harm to children, elder abuse and domestic violence. Scant attention has been paid to different time periods and national contexts. This paper, which draws on material presented and discussed during an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) seminar series, adopts a lifespan approach to understanding harm and abuse and explores how this can reveal insights for a more generic understanding and practice in protection services. The paper provides varying social constructions and varying recognition of concepts of harm and abuse, not least by ‘victims’, who frequently reject that role. Examining responses to harm and abuse suggests that formal systems tend to assume clear ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’ and that service categories can be unhelpful as they may not reflect experiences or address the wider contexts in which these are embedded. The lifespan approach provides a means for comparing and contrasting issues raised within specific areas of need and service delivery. It is an orientation which raises new questions about understanding harm and abuse and helpful insights which have implications for both policy and practice.

Keywords: Lifespan; harm; abuse; protection

Journal Article.  6727 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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