Child, parent or family? Applying a systemic lens to the conceptualisations of Family Support in Europe

Carmel Devaney*, Øivin Christiansen, Julia Holzer, Mandi MacDonald, Marisa Matias, Eszter Salamon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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This paper considers how Family Support is conceptualised in the European
context with respect to its primary beneficiaries. The central question
considers the focus of concern in a child welfare system and what it
means when Family Support is focused on children, on parents, or
involves the family unit as a whole. Informed by a body of relevant
literature reviewed as part of a wider project, Family Support is seen as
more often conceptualised as being targeted toward parents as the
primary service user, and to a lesser extent described as being tailored
toward children or whole families. This approach to Family Support
provision is somewhat at odds with a systemic understanding of families,
which is foundational to much social care and child welfare work, and
which takes account of the multi-layered relationships between individuals
within families, and between individuals, families and their social world.
Applying an ecological systems perspective, this paper critically discusses
the consequences for the involved stakeholders and the implementation
of services at different system levels when support and interventions are
targeted at the child, the parents or at the family as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-347
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date19 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 04 Mar 2023


  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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