Journal Article

Authority relations in families and child welfare in the Netherlands and England: new styles of governance

C Van Nijnatten

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 14, issue 2, pages 107-130
Published in print August 2000 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online August 2000 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/14.2.107
Authority relations in families and child welfare in the Netherlands and England: new styles of governance

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In recent years western States have experienced gradual changes in relations of authority with advances in the social and the legal status both of subordinate groups and of individuals. This has been the case in relations between State and citizens, between state institutions and citizens, between parents and children and between child protection agencies and families in trouble. These relationships have become more equal and more democratic. Teenage children nowadays take many decisions without the consent of their parents, which, half a century ago, would have been impossible. This is also the case with respect to the relationship between State and citizens. Although, and in many domains, citizens have acquired greater independence from both the State and the pressure of social conformity, there are still areas from which the State has not withdrawn such as, for example, military service and social security. We cannot therefore speak of a general abdication of authority by the State, but rather of a loosening of relations of authority, both at the micro-level of the family and the macro-level of the State. This article examines the development of professional authority in relation to the introduction of new child welfare systems, setting this development in an historical perspective of the triangular relations of state authority, parental authority and child welfare authority. Several stages of development in these domains can be identified, although the exact moment of their appearance is hard to identify precisely and differs from country to country.

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Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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