Living with adversity: a qualitative study of families with multiple and complex needs Research with families in Northern Ireland
There is a growing emphasis on the need for more effective early intervention to help support families who have multiple and complex needs. Recent research (Devaney et al, 2013) suggests that the majority of serious child abuse cases involve families where parents are experiencing multiple problems.
We undertook an indepth study of 17 families with multiple needs who were receiving support from Barnardo's or NSPCC services. The research asked parents about their own experiences of adversity during childhood and as an adult, as well as the experiences of their children. It also asked what support they had received.
This research builds on the findings of a review of the international literature published in 2012.
Authors: Mary Anne Webb, Lisa Bunting, Rachel Shannon, Donna Kernaghan, Caroline Cunningham and Teresa Geraghty.
8 broad areas of adversity emerged during the literature review as key factors related to multiple adversities and negative outcomes:
- poverty/debt/financial pressures
- child abuse/child protection concerns
- family/domestic violence
- parental illness/disability
- parental substance abuse
- parental mental illness
- family separation/ bereavement/ imprisonment
- parental offending/anti-social behaviour.
During the research further areas of adversity were identified:
- housing instability
- poor school attendance
- parental unemployment
- parents with low/no educational qualifications
- household and/or caring responsibilities during childhood
- social isolation and hard to reach families
- Northern Ireland conflict
- adversity in the wider family.
Research with the families also found:
- most participants had experienced some degree of adversity in childhood, including poor and often abusive relationships with their parents. However for others, their problems only started after a traumatic event in adulthood, particularly if they did not receive appropriate support from services at the time.
- traumatic events such as family separation and/or domestic violence typically triggered other problems such as homelessness, financial difficulties, mental ill-health, reliance on alcohol and social isolation. These problems would accumulate over time and impact negatively on parents and their children.
- the majority of participants were accessing multiple services across the voluntary and community sector and a range of statutory agencies such as social services, education, health and criminal justice.
- a lack of coordinated and integrated provision meant participants often struggled to engage with a multiplicity of professionals and services.
- the majority of participants believed that engagement with social and other services had led to some positive outcomes for their family, although most still had unresolved problems and may be vulnerable to further difficulties.
|Tables and figures||2|
|Structure of the report||3|
|Chapter One: Introduction||4|
|Chapter Two: Methodology||11|
|Chapter Three: About the study participants||15|
|Chapter Four: Prevalence and experience of adversities||21|
|Chapter Five: Contact with social and other services||54|
|Chapter Six: Conclusion - key themes and reflections||74|
Please cite as: Webb, M.A., Bunting, L., Shannon, R., Kernaghan D., Cunningham, C. and Geraghty, T. (2014) Living with adversity: a qualitative study of families with multiple and complex needs. Belfast: Barnardo's Northern Ireland.
Helpline highlight: protecting children in Northern Ireland: 2012-13
Challenges from the frontline
Translating learning into action
Caring Dads: Safer Children
Domestic Abuse, Recovering Together (DART™)
Child abuse and neglect
Child protection in Northern Ireland
Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.
Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.
We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.
New in the Library
A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.
Helping you keep children safe
Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.
Impact and evidence hub
Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Get expert training and consultancy
Sharing knowledge to keep children safe
Read our guide to the NSPCC Knowledge and Information Service to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.
Devaney, J., Bunting, L., Hayes, D. and Lazenbatt, A. (2013) Translating learning into action: an overview of learning arising from case management reviews in Northern Ireland 2003-2008. Belfast: Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS).