Tuesday, 10 April 2018

In a search for competence? Children’s participation in family law proceedings

CRFR Co-Director Professor Kay Tisdall explores why we find it so challenging to involve children and young people in decisions that affect them.

I have been on a journey for the few past months, in terms of exploring the underlying reasons why we find it so challenging to involve children and young people in decisions that affect them. Involving children and young people is required by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is frequently promoted by policy, institutional leaders and key practitioners. And yet adults find it so challenging when making decisions, particularly in formal decision-making about the child’s wellbeing.

In particular, I have been considering family law proceedings in Scotland. At least in legislation, Scottish provisions are very strong in terms of children’s rights to have their views duly considered in disputed parental responsibilities cases (technically Section 11 cases under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995). But from the evidence we have, children’s views seem to be even less considered now than they were ten years go. Why would that be?

One reason may be the pervasive nature of adult decision-makers’ views of children’s competence and capacity. If such a decision-maker considers children in general, and a child in particular, as incompetent and incapable, does that result in children’s views either not being ‘allowed in’ to the decision-making, let along being given ‘due weight’ by the decision-maker?

I went to look at the relevant literature and case law, supported by what evidence we have in Scotland about children’s views being considered in disputed parental responsibilities cases. I asked three questions: What are meant by competence and capacity? How are they used? Do the concepts enhance or detract from children’s participation rights?

While competence may be very well defined in certain professional arenas, it is not in key children’s rights resources (like the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s General Comment on Article 12) nor in family law literature. Competence is often mentioned – but casually, with little precision or definition. Alternative terms are used in Scottish reported case law, such as maturity. Across these sources, judging capacity remains problematic in both law and practice.

As concepts, both capacity and competence seem to be detracting rather than supporting children’s rights to participate. The concepts are being used as if competence and capacity are inherent qualities of the child, rather than something a child expresses in context and in relationships. To be honest, I am not sure if they are helpful at all, given their problematic use and historical baggage. But if these concepts are to be used, I would recommend they are subject to far more critique and precise definition. Perhaps fresh ideas from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities might help the children’s field? The Convention has been radical about moving away from a best interests test, to emphasising the support needed to ensure people can express their legal capacity.

Then the courts system would spend less effort assessing whether a child’s views should be allowed into the proceedings and more on the information children need to participate. We would have to invest in supporting children to develop and express their views. We would have a radical form of child- inclusive proceedings, where we do not use concerns about a child’s welfare as a reason to ignore the child’s rights to participate. Instead, the focus would be to make proceedings as constructive and supportive of children as possible, perhaps requiring radical changes in what are currently adversarial and formal approaches. An opportunity for us to consider in the forthcoming family law review of the 1995 Act in Scotland?

This blog is based on a longer article recently published in the International Journal of Children’s Rights, Challenging Competency and Capacity? (2018, Vol. 26(1): 159-182). This article follows on from the earlier exploration in Tisdall, E.K.M., “Subjects with Agency: Children’s participation in family law proceedings”, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law 2016a (38(4)), 362–379 (see blog here) and has learnt from collaboration with Carine Le Borgne

See also our previous blog by Dr Aoife Daly ‘Prioritising Children’s Autonomy is Prioritising their Best Interests’


Kay Tisdall is Professor of Childhood Policy and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh. She is Programme Director of the MSc in Childhood Studies.





Thursday, 29 March 2018

Children’s Participation in Decision-Making: Questioning Competence and Competencies

Carine Le Borgne asks if we need to be more challenging in recognising children’s competence to contribute to decision-making.

Children’s participation rights remain highly dependent on adults, who in one way or another, hold powerful positions such as legal guardians, administrative or political decision-makers, or front-line professionals. The attitudes of such adults towards children and childhood strongly influence whether or not the adults recognise, facilitate and support children’s participation. One of the most persistent adult concerns is whether children are competent enough to participate in decision-making. Thus, power - and particularly the power of adults - is key to children’s practical achievement of competency.

My research on children’s participation[1] at the community level highlights the challenge of adults’ perceptions of children’s competence and competencies. The research focused on why children are often seen as ‘incompetent’ and how that translates into a lack of participation. Based on the findings, in collaboration with Professor Kay Tisdall, I wrote an article on Children’s Participation: Questioning Competence and Competencies.[2]

Our article recalls the memorable phrase coined by Hinton[3] - ‘the competence bias’. This phrase captures how the use (and misuse) of a child development paradigm leads to perceiving children as starting from a position of limited competence and emphasising their evolving capacities. The ‘competence bias’ then is applied to exclude children from participation. Children’s exclusion is furthered when competence is presumed to be individualised and intrinsic, rather than recognising competency as contextual and relational.

Through my research, we trace evidence from local participation projects, of the continuing power of the competence bias. We consider how staff members can validate and enhance children’s competence and competencies, and thus recognise children’s participation rights. The analysis identifies that perceptions of children’s competence were both facilitators and inhibitors of children’s participation. The research was undertaken in Tamil Nadu (South India) and Scotland (UK), with two non-governmental organisations (NGO) supporting children’s participation.

The research highlights the key role of NGO staff members in contributing to children’s social competence. The NGO activities in this research increased children’s knowledge, which they not only used in their communities but were able to transfer to school and family contexts. The NGO staff members were key to providing the link between children and adult decision-makers in their communities, though this was done less successfully in Scotland than in Tamil Nadu.

The findings also indicate that, without NGO support, children were limited in expressing their social competence. This leads to two conclusions. First, strengthening the role of the staff members in children’s participation is worthwhile because they can play key roles in developing and validating children’s competence and enhancing children’s competencies. Staff members’ own perceptions of children’s competences and competencies influence how well they support children and children’s influence on decision-making.

Second, the competence bias remains pernicious and often unhelpful to children’s participation. The bias can mean that participation workers, as key intermediaries, may be necessary to facilitate children’s participation rights. It may also mean that children’s competencies are under-recognised, as children only achieve participation through ‘borrowing’ NGO power and not power or influence in their own right.

All this leads us to conclude - do we need to be more challenging yet in recognising children’s competence to contribute to decision-making?

Carine Le Borgne was an affiliated PhD Student with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) and is now Senior Policy Adviser at World Vision UK. Kay Tisdall is Programme of the MSc in Childhood Studies[4] at The University of Edinburgh and Co-Director of CRFR.


References

1 https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/21025/CRFR%20Briefing%2087.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

2 https://www.cogitatiopress.com/socialinclusion/article/view/986

3
http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/157181808x311141

4 http://www.sps.ed.ac.uk/gradschool/prospective/taught_masters/a_g/msc_childhood_studies

 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Prioritising Children’s Autonomy is Prioritising their Best Interests

Dr Aoife Daly argues that when judges make decisions about children’s best interests in courts, they often think that they are protecting children by taking decision-making from them, but this fails to acknowledge that children are experts on their own lives.

In my recently-published book Children, Autonomy and the Courts: Beyond the Right to be Heard, I look at cases where courts decide children’s best interests (for example about parental contact) to see how much influence children themselves have on decisions. I examine cases from liberal democracies all over the world and 11 countries in detail, including Scotland, England and Wales.

It seems that children in these cases find their wishes easily overridden. Common decisions from around the world include children being forced into contact visits with estranged parents (sometimes with the threat that the police or court staff will physically force them). In one case a 16 year old was not allowed to give video testimony in care proceedings; and in another a 15 year old was compelled to have inoculations against her will because her father wanted it. Compare these scenarios to adult ones: adults are never forced into relationships or non-essential medical procedures ‘in their interests’.

The instinct of adults, including judges making best interest decisions, is to protect children. This approach is well-intentioned and it recognises rightly that children’s capacities are developing and that they are lacking in experience relative to adults. They may need time, support and information to form an opinion. Sometimes they might not want to give an opinion at all and that should be respected too.

Yet in many cases, children have unmistakable wishes about a situation. An inquest opened recently into the murder of Ellie Butler. The six year old had been living almost all of her life with her grandparents, but was sent by a family court in 2013 to live with her violent father though it seems that she had begged not to be returned. She was beaten to death by him within a year. Adults often ignore that children might well understand their own best interests. It can be very difficult for children to be taken seriously when their wishes incline against strong societal assumptions, such as the need to prioritise the position of birth parents. Younger children find it particularly challenging to get adults to take their views seriously.

I argue in 'Children, Autonomy and the Courts' that it is illogical and unjustifiable that children do not have greater influence in court decisions determining their best interests. In liberal democracies, autonomy is held as the most important characteristic for the individual. It is prioritised in medical law for example, and increasingly is upheld to the extent possible for adults with cognitive disability (which demonstrates that decreased ‘capacity’ need not prevent prioritisation of someone’s wishes). Yet judges can make decisions about children without having to prioritise autonomy. Children’s wishes can be treated as just another factor and overridden with ease.

In my book I argue that a ‘right to be heard’ does not go far enough for children. I propose that a children’s autonomy principle, respecting children’s wishes unless significant harm would likely result, would ensure greater support for children in proceedings, and greater obligations on adults to engage in transparent decision-making. It would also mean better best interest decisions, because it is only by giving appropriate priority to children’s own wishes that we can make good decisions on their behalf.


Dr Aoife Daly is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law at The University of Liverpool. She has worked and researched widely on children's rights and has held a number of NGO and academic positions. She also has teaching and research interests in a number of other areas including family law and civil and political rights. She researches human rights issues through the lenses of social justice, gender and psychology.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Red Flags Are Everywhere, but Nobody Can See Them

Dr Emma Katz argues that Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ glamorises the controlling behaviours used in domestic abuse.

Coercive control is a harmful criminal offence, yet it hides in plain sight. Sitting front and centre within our culture, it is performed routinely before our eyes. Coercive and controlling behaviours are glamorised in plotlines where abusers are sexy and romantic bad boys, and women enjoy being dominated and suppressed. It is vital that we challenge these representations, in order to tackle coercive control effectively.
The UK has recently taken the bold step of making coercive or controlling behaviour within intimate relationships a criminal offence. This is a breakthrough in our efforts to tackle domestic violence and abuse.

Perpetrators can now be prosecuted for controlling their partner’s activities, damaging their partner’s confidence and self-esteem, and isolating them from family and friends.

But prosecutions and convictions have so far been disappointingly low, and the majority of police officers have not received training on how to identify coercive and controlling behaviours.

This lack of action is partly fuelled by the representation of these behaviours in mainstream Western media.

A prime example can be found in the critically-acclaimed Netflix series The Crown, and its depiction of the relationship between the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and Antony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowdon (Matthew Goode), in season 2, episode 4, ‘Beryl’.

As a researcher of domestic abuse who focuses on coercive control[i], I watched this episode with horror, seeing how Antony Armstrong-Jones’ controlling behaviour is portrayed as pulse-racingly hot.

Antony (a professional photographer) first meets Margaret at a party and offers to photograph her in his studio on the condition that she does everything he says for the duration of the session. He tells her she is ‘dying to be a supplicant’ – someone who behaves humbly towards a powerful figure.

This introduces a clear controlling dynamic – Antony will have the power in their interaction, and Margaret will submit her will to his. Margaret cannot complain, Antony asserts, because this is something she secretly desires. This is a classic example of how perpetrators of domestic abuse manipulate victims into thinking that they are to blame for their own abuse, creating a feeling of shame that often prevents victims from seeking help.

At his studio a few days later, Antony begins their session by ordering Margaret to wait downstairs. He then goes upstairs and calmly topples chairs and bangs on tables to make as much noise as possible. Margaret sits downstairs listening to the noises, unsure of what is happening. Having established his dominance and potential to use violence, Antony returns downstairs, offering no explanation of his actions. The message is clear – he can behave in a bizarre and violent way at any time and Margaret is not to challenge him.

Many more ‘red flags’ of abuse appear as Antony begins taking Margaret’s photos. Antony tells her she has ‘no idea who she is, not the faintest idea’. This comment attacks and destabilises Margaret’s self-confidence[ii]. He suggests that Margaret’s family doesn’t treat her well – laying the foundations for isolating her from them and setting himself up as ‘the only one who really loves you’.

At one point, without warning or consent, Antony pulls down the straps of Margaret’s top to expose her bare shoulders – beginning to establish the sexual coerciveness and sexually assaultive behaviour that is common in abusive relationships.

At the end of the session Antony becomes light-hearted and cheerful, as though his behaviour had never happened. Such abrupt changes of mood[iii] are commonly used by domestic abuse perpetrators to confuse and Gaslight victims by invalidating their experiences of reality. Victims are left thinking: ‘If he’s acting like everything’s alright now, then what just happened to me can’t have been that bad. I must have overreacted. I must be too sensitive’.

 How is Margaret depicted as reacting to all this? Does she run a mile? Is she outraged? Is she afraid? No – she goes home to her bedroom in a state of utter joy. She plays the song ‘I only have eyes for you’, which begins with the lyrics: ‘My love must be a kind of blind love. I can't see anyone but you.’ She smiles, dances, and is thrilled to have met such an exciting man. Viewers are encouraged to share her excitement.

What about the media reaction? Did they notice that this episode shows almost every red flag for an abusive relationship? No – much of media commentary described it positively. The photography scene is ‘when they fell in love’, Antony is ‘dashing’, ‘handsome’, ‘hip’, and ‘someone to get excited about’, the storyline is a ‘magnetic flirtation’ and a ‘red-hot romance’.

Given this glamorisation, it is unsurprising that the police may struggle with the idea that coercive and controlling behaviour is part of an offence they should be tackling. How can it be wrong, a police officer may wonder, if it is depicted as so thrilling, and as something that women are enjoying so much?

The grim reality is that such behaviour is rarely enjoyable. Most women whose partners are coercive and controlling experience a nightmare of abuse and manipulation from which they may need considerable support to escape (and the same is true for male victims of coercive control).

If this episode of The Crown is anything to go by, it may be a long time before controlling and coercive behaviours are seen not as the actions of sexy ‘bad boys’, but as the repugnant acts of domestic abuse that they are.

Dr Emma Katz is a Lecturer in Childhood and Youth at Liverpool Hope University and a member of the Gender Based Violence Research Network. Emma researches the impacts of domestic violence and abuse on children and mother-child relationships. Her work explores coercive control, agency, resistance, recovery and mother-child mutual supportiveness in domestic abuse contexts. 

References

[i] Katz, E. (2016) Beyond the Physical Incident Model: How Children Living with Domestic Violence are Harmed By and Resist Regimes of Coercive Control. Child Abuse Rev., 25: 46–59. doi: 10.1002/car.2422

[ii] Matheson, F et al (2015) Where Did She Go? The Transformation of Self-Esteem, Self-Identity, and Mental Well-Being among Women Who Have Experienced Intimate Partner Violence. Women’s Health Issues 25: 561-569 doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2015.04.006

[iii] Enander, V. (2011) Leaving Jekyll and Hyde: Emotion work in the context of intimate partner violence. Feminism & Psychology 21(1) 29–48 doi: 0.1177/0959353510384831

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Resilience in early years—continuing the conversation

Dr Caralyn Blaisdell continues our discussion on the theme of resilience and how this term is being used.

“We like to think of childhood as a time of joy and innocence—for many of us it’s just not true.”

…so opens the trailer for the Resilience documentary, an American film currently touring through the children’s sector in Scotland. The film is a public service announcement dealing with the “biology of stress and the science of hope”. It explores the ways that exposure to trauma, particularly during childhood, affects a person’s whole being, and looks at associations with future health outcomes. Research suggests that prolonged stress is associated with poorer health outcomes in childhood and adulthood. The film specifically focuses on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study but resonates with a wider body of research—for example, hypotheses about the ‘weathering’ effects on health of chronic stressors such as racism.

The tagline for the film is ‘the biology of stress and the science of hope’. It is perhaps the ‘hope’ elements of the documentary that are particularly important to interrogate. The film is from a US context and - perhaps unsurprisingly, given its origin - focuses largely on individualised remedies. These are important. But the documentary does not spend much time questioning how inequalities come about on a structural level. For example, the film looks at an intervention that involves drama therapists listening to children about their lived experiences. But why is this such a departure? Why do we not already create space for children’s voices and seek out their perspectives—and believe them? The film does not unpack children’s subordination and the institutional practices that silence them. It’s sad, but not surprising, that we need reminding that children are human beings with complex lives and relationships.

At Strathclyde University, the initial feedback from students who have seen the Resilience documentary suggests they see a role for themselves. From vowing to avoid making their classroom stressful for children, to understanding that ‘bad behaviour’ may not be about children being naughty, but instead stem from stress, to making a commitment to be brave and ask children about what worries them, the students are thinking about how their own practice might create a more just experience for children. For example, how do early years professionals deal with racist incidents in the playroom? Do we gloss them over in the name of being ‘nice’ and ‘all being friends’ (Konstantoni, 2013)? Are teachers aware of the structural causes of poverty and the ways poverty impacts on school life (Kustatscher, 2017; Treanor, 2017)? Do early years professionals have an understanding of how cultural, political and legal contexts shape the choices that are available to children and families, and their sense of belonging in country and community (Tillett and Wong, 2017)?

In previous CRFR blogs about resilience, the authors have asked us to consider who is responsible for resilience. Are we cheering when children and young people successfully ‘steel’ themselves against a deeply unfair society, or are we going to look at our own contributions to dealing them a better hand, as Ariane Critchley asks? Remedies for resilience, such as mindfulness, are increasingly popular in early years, but we need to ask ourselves WHY environments are stressful for children and how we can change our own ways of working.


Caralyn Blaisdell is a Lecturer in Early Years Education at the University of Strathclyde. She completed her PhD at CRFR on ‘Young children’s participation as a living right: an ethnographic study of an early learning and childcare setting’. 

References

Konstantoni, K. (2013) ‘Children’s rights-based approaches: the challenges of listening to taboo/discriminatory issues and moving beyond children’s participation’, International Journal of Early Years Education, 21(4), pp. 362–374. doi: 10.1080/09669760.2013.867169.

Kustatscher, M. (2017) ‘Young children’s social class identities in everyday life at primary school: The importance of naming and challenging complex inequalities’, Childhood, 24(3), pp. 381–395. doi: 10.1177/0907568216684540.

Tillett, V. and Wong, S. (2017) ‘An investigative case study into early childhood educators’ understanding about “belonging”’, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 0(0), pp. 1–13. doi: 10.1080/1350293X.2018.1412016.

Treanor, M. (2017) Can we put the ‘poverty of aspiration’ myth to bed now? CRFR briefing 91. Available at: https://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/1842/25787/CRFR%20briefing%2091%20-%20Treanor.pdf



Tuesday, 19 December 2017

How resilient do we want our children and young people to be?

In a follow-up post, CRFR Associate PhD student Ariane Critchley provides her thoughts on resilience in response to the recent CRFR Seminar ‘The Troubling Concept of Resilience’ given by Eric Carlin and Emma Davidson.


As a social worker I was fortunate to meet a number of children and young people who I would describe as ‘resilient’. The work of Gilligan (2001) was highly influential on my practice and I considered ways in which I might foster resilience in the children I worked with, particularly those children to whom we owed corporate parenting responsibilities, by virtue of their status as ‘looked after’. In my view, it makes sense to talk of ‘resilience’ in the context of frontline social work, where practitioners encounter young people who have suffered 'extraordinary vulnerability’ (Brownlie, 2014: 195) through their experiences of early trauma, their separation from family of origin, and experiences of an imperfect care system with multiple moves of home and school. Should young people flourish through such extremes of early adversity, aren’t we right to think of them as resilient?

I would argue that in this context, ‘resilient’ is exactly how we should describe the ongoing achievement that individual children make by not only surviving serious challenges, but somehow finding a way to grow and to thrive. And the ‘somehow’ here is crucial. Acknowledging Carlin & Davidson’s challenge, that resilience risks that we ‘prioritise external and normative judgements about individuals’ characteristics and behaviours and the adversities they are deemed to have overcome’ (Ungar, 2005), I wish to suggest that resilience as properly understood is an ecological and ‘relational’ quality (Bondi et al. 2007). We can only be resilient to the challenges we face through interaction with the internal and external factors that make up our life world. For example, our health, the people who surround us, the socio-economic context we live in, and the resources to which we have access. Resilience then, is not a ‘characteristic’ so much as a process.

Which is why, as social workers, we feel we can contribute to an individual child or young person’s overall ‘resilience’. However, this does not translate into a policy aspiration that all children and young people should be resilient. Listening to the seminar last week, what struck me was the way that the universal application of concepts such as ‘resilience’ can be dangerous. When youth policy suggests through GIRFEC that all Scottish children should be encouraged to be resilient we risk a backwards misapplication, which seems to demand that children and young people do their best with the cards they are dealt rather than our society finding them a better hand.

In their study of the operationalisation of resilience in practice, Daniel et al. cautioned that, ‘policy documents are increasingly referring to the promotion of resilience as an aim – it is important that such documents set out their operational definitions (Daniel et al., 2009)’. Viewing resilience ‘as an aim’ introduces the great danger that this seminar warned of; we might expect that children and young people encountering significant difficulty should simply become more resilient, flipping resilience on its head in a way that demands individual overcoming, not structural equalising. If resilience is understood as a dynamic process that occurs in conditions of adversity, the aim of public policy should surely be to challenge and reduce the social and material conditions in which children can truly be described as ‘resilient’, to decrease the very circumstances in which resilience can flourish.

Ariane Critchley is a qualified social worker and researcher with a range of interests across social work and public health. Ariane is based at the University of Edinburgh where she is writing up her ESRC funded PhD on pre-birth child protection, examining the complexities of applying child protection processes to unborn children and the experiences of practitioners and of expectant families. Ariane has contributed to Scottish Government publications on maternity care and is currently working with Social Work Scotland on finding evidence of good practice in the implementation of self-directed support in Scotland.


References


Bondi, L., Davidson, J. and Smith, M. (2007), ‘Geography’s ‘Emotional Turn’’, Chapter 1 in Davidson, J. Bondi, L. and Smith, M. (2007), Emotional Geographies, Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate.

Brownlie, J. (2014), Ordinary Relationships. A Sociological Study of Emotions, Reflexivity and Culture, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

 Daniel, B, Vincent, S, Farrell, E & Amey, F (2009), 'How is the concept of resilience operationalised in practice with vulnerable children?' International Journal of Child and Family Welfare, vol. 12 (1): 2-21.

Gilligan, R. (2001), Promoting resilience : a resource guide on working with children in the care system, London: British Agencies for Adoption & Fostering (BAAF).

Ungar, M. (2005) ‘Introduction: Resilience across cultures and contexts’, in Handbook for working with children and youth. London: Sage.




Monday, 18 December 2017

Resilience – continuing the conversation

Emma Davidson and Eric Carlin reflect on their recent CRFR Informal Seminar

It’s not a surprise that our seminar, ‘The Troubling Concept of Resilience’, received such interest. In recent years, fostering resilience has become a central dimension not only of early years, education and youth policy, but wider social policy and practice. The concept has, arguably, come from a sensible place: research that has sought to understand why, and in what circumstances, some individuals respond positively to adversity, and others do not. Our wariness, possibly scepticism, is about how resilience has been endorsed and appropriated by the state, distorting the policy focus away from the need for structural changes to reduce entrenched long-term and complex inequalities across populations and instead focussing on ‘steeling’ young people to bounce back from adversities that are assumed to be unavoidable.

 As we highlighted at the seminar, criticism of resilience projects has focused on their prioritisation of understanding and influencing individual behaviours, reducing risk factors for individuals and, in turn, neglecting social and structural explanations failure. Resilience based interventions are evolving, and a body of work is adopting a socio-ecological model which takes account of cultural contexts (see Hart et al 2016 or Ungar, M 2008). However, the psychoanalytical tradition from which resilience has developed dominates, with its focus on psychological dispositions and personality traits of individuals as ‘protective factors’. We are also troubled that our understandings of resilience are, to a great extent, being ‘imported’ from other social and cultural contexts, and we note the growth of a commercial industry of facilitators, consultants and trainers to support the policy drift towards resilience.

Of course, we are not suggesting that work on young people’s self-esteem, confidence and mental well-being is not important. However, we would argue that there is a need to stop and reflect – to think critically about how we are defining and operationalising resilience; to examine the evidence on resilience within our local contexts; to consider whether resilience is the outcome desired for your project; and to campaign for effective policies that can reduce unnecessary disadvantages.

Our final question is a bigger one – and that is whether the resilience framework is actually fit for purpose? Can a resilience framework transform fundamental inequalities marginalising young people, such as inequity in the education system, access to housing and welfare and precarious employment? Is this focus on ‘steeling’ young people - making them stronger and more resistant to adversity, and personally responsible for ‘success’ or ‘failure’ - socially just? This question is all the more potent in a climate of austerity, where many adversities facing young people cannot be considered a consequence of their own deficits.

These are questions, and conversations, we would like to continue. Follow this blog for ongoing debate and an announcement about a future seminar to continue the discussions.


Dr Emma Davidson is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in Sociology, based at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. Her ongoing research is exploring the social and community role of public libraries in Scotland (https://anewpage.org).

Dr Eric Carlin is a Teaching Fellow in the
Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics and is the Director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) based at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
References

Hart, A. et al. (2016) ‘Uniting Resilience Research and Practice With an Inequalities Approach’ SAGE Open, 6(4): 1-13.

Ungar, M. (2008) ‘Resilience across Cultures’, The British Journal of Social Work, 38(2):218–235.