Engaging Parents with Parenting Programmes: Relationship Building in Initial Conversations

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This article examines how practitioners engage with parents who have been referred to parenting programmes. Engaging parents is an important component of child welfare work so that parents can benefit from interventions and outcomes for children can be improved. However, our knowledge of engagement is still developing and research in the field is frequently based on self-reported data. This study used Conversation Analysis to examine direct recordings of initial telephone conversations between parenting practitioners and parents following their referral to the service. Results revealed that in the majority of calls, practitioners focused on the primary task of making arrangements for the service, but in a minority of calls, practitioners departed from the usual progress of the call to ask parents about the difficulties they were facing. When they did so, practitioners committed themselves to substantial additional work listening to the parent and extending the length of the call. However, they also pursued different actions to engage the parent with the service that were built up incrementally in the talk. By examining three particular features of practitioners’ talk during these sequences, the article considers how a practice phenomenon such as engagement may be purposefully worked up moment by moment.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcx074
Pages (from-to)1296–1314
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date5 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • Conversation analysis
  • Engagement
  • family support
  • parenting programme
  • Professional Practice


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