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Assessing parental capacity to change: The missing jigsaw piece in the assessment of a child’s welfare?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Early online date12 Dec 2015
DateAccepted/In press - 11 Dec 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Dec 2015
DatePublished (current) - Feb 2016


This paper presents a framework for assessing parental capacity to change, for use by social workers when a child is experiencing significant harm or maltreatment. It reports on part of the work of a knowledge exchange project involving the University of Bristol and three local authorities in South West England. The availability of assessment models addressing capacity to change, in both social work practice and the academic literature, was found to be limited. At the same time, the importance of such an assessment is significant, in terms of the lives of children affected. Two particular approaches were examined, the assessment of actual attempts to change parenting behaviour, and how behaviour change theory can help understand barriers or facilitators to change such as individual motivation, or habits and automatic responses. The development of an assessment approach is outlined, based on these two key features. It is argued that this type of assessment helps fill an important gap in social work theory and practice.

    Research areas

  • child welfare, child maltreatment, assessment, capacity to change, parent, behaviour change, risk

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