Looking again at troubled families: parents' perspectives on multiple adversities

Lisa Bunting*, Mary Anne Webb, Rachel Shannon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
3037 Downloads (Pure)


The 'Troubled Families' policy and intervention agenda is based on a deficit approach that tends to ignore the role of structural disadvantage in the lives of the families it targets. In an effort to support this rhetoric, both quantitative and qualitative data have been used, and misused, to create a representation of these families, which emphasizes risk and individual blame and minimizes societal factors. This current paper presents findings from an in-depth qualitative study using a biographical narrative approach to explore parents' experiences of multiple adversities at different times over the life-course. Key themes relating to the pattern and nature of adversities experienced by participants provide a more nuanced understanding of the lives of families experiencing multiple and complex problems, highlighting how multiple interpretations are often possible within the context of professional intervention. The findings support the increasing call to move away from procedurally driven, risk averse child protection practice towards more relationally based practice, which addresses not only the needs of all family members but recognizes parents as individuals in their own right.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Early online date15 Apr 2015
Publication statusEarly online date - 15 Apr 2015


  • Complex needs
  • Family policy
  • Multiple adversities
  • Service user perspectives
  • Troubled families

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health(social science)


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