Family Conflicts: Double Binds and Contradictions

  • Paul Corrigan
  • Peter Leonard
Part of the Critical Texts in Social Work and the Welfare State book series (CTSWWS)


Barbara is fifteen, getting nowhere at school and obviously hating it. She never really talks about school except with an occasional sneer and her mother is always going on about her lack of effort and the fact that she does not do her homework. Mrs K., the mother, referred her daughter to the social services team as ‘uncontrollable’. She came storming into the office with Barbara in tow about two months ago, screaming and crying. She calmed down after a while and explained that she believed that Barbara was taking drugs and sleeping around with half the boys on the estate. She wanted Barbara put into care immediately as she ‘just couldn’t cope’ with her behaviour. Having seen the threat of being ‘put into care’ as a punishment for her daughter, she felt satisfied enough with Barbara’s public humiliation. Mrs K. showed her daughter that she had real power over her; that the law of the land ensured her parental authority and that unless Barbara obeyed her the law could make life very difficult for her. Having her ‘put away’ had obviously been used in a number of family rows over the past couple of years and the incident was simply underlining her determination to be obeyed. Having gone through this ritual, Mrs K. left the office before the interview was complete, taking Barbara with her. Only ten days later the same scene was enacted again and, with two half-completed interviews, the team leader decided to ask Pauline to see the family and decide whether any further action was needed.


Social Worker Family Conflict Capitalist Production Capitalist Society Parental Authority 
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Copyright information

© Paul Corrigan and Peter Leonard 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Corrigan
    • 1
  • Peter Leonard
    • 2
  1. 1.Polytechnic of North LondonUK
  2. 2.University of WarwickUK

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