Accounting for self, sex and sexuality in UK social workers' interactions with service users: Findings from an exploratory study

Jason Schaub, Paul Willis, Priscilla Dunk-West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The social work profession struggles to engage with sexuality under the anti-oppressive banner as deftly as it does with other types of social difference, such as ethnicity, age, class and gender. Despite recent theorising and empirical work about sexuality in social work, little is known about social workers’ perceptions, knowledge and values about sexuality in contemporary professional practice. This exploratory study is the first to examine social workers’ beliefs and values about sexuality in relation to everyday professional interactions within the UK. It aims to better account for the ways in which sexuality is constructed and understood within interactions with colleagues and clients. Utilisation of an online survey instrument examined 112 respondents’ perceptions about sexuality, incorporating the Heteronormativity Attitudes and Beliefs Scale (Habarth, 2015) and open-ended questions exploring how social workers acquire knowledge about sexuality. Respondents were qualified social workers from Wales, England and Scotland. Findings suggest that some respondents ‘bracketed’ values to manage between professional and personal identities. We found a relationship between social workers’ religiosity and investment in heteronormative beliefs. Implications for delivery of services to social work clients and practitioners’ learning needs are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-446
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Volume47
Issue number2
Early online dateMar 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

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