Skip to content
Main menu hidden.

Social work wih families with complex needs - in family orientation in Swedish social services

Research project The notion of family has changed due to changes in demography, ideology and economy. The project investigates how social services deal with "family" and investigates how social workers define and act in relation to family members or the family as a whole depending on the kind of complex needs that are focus of the intervention.

The aim of the study is to describe and analyse how social workers define and practice family-based interventions in relation to groups with complex needs. Specific questions are i) who are the primary receivers of services?, ii) how are means and ends related to the notion of "family", iii) what is the relevance of gender?, iv) is there variation in how "family" is conceptualized between different social service sectors? Interviews will be made with 60 social workers and managers in four Swedish municipalities. Focus groups will be interviewed in five different sectors of the social services.

Head of project

Lennart Nygren
Professor emeritus

Project overview

Project period:

2011-01-01 2013-03-31


Finansår , 2011, 2012

huvudman: Lennart Nygren, finansiar: FAS, y2011: 920, y2012: 940,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Social work

Project description

This study will contribute to an emerging need to gain more knowledge about how different conceptions of family are adapted in social services for people with complex social needs. Since the concept of family has changed due to both demographical, ideological and economic structural changes, there is a need for an increased awareness of how social services and their workers regard families as the target of their interventions. general aim of this project is to describe and analyse how managers and social workers in social services define and work with “family” as the target of their interventions.

Specific research questions are:
- How do social service managers and social workers that work with families with complex needs define “family” and how do they describe and explain and justify the role of the family in relation to the interventions they carry out?
- Who is the primary target person of the intervention in terms of family members?
- In what way is gender a factor of importance in the design of interventions into families?
- What are the goals of the intervention in terms of outcome for the family and its members?
- Do conceptions of “family” vary between workers in different sectors of social services (primarily the sectors child welfare, drug and alcohol abuse, disabilities, elderly care, and financial support), and if so, how?

This qualitative research project consists of intensive case studies of social services in four municipalities in northern and southern Sweden, two larger (100 000) and two smaller (10-20 000). The sample will provide the variation needed for a qualitative analysis of data. Individual interviews will be complemented with focus groups in the different sectors of municipal social services.

Telephone interviews will carried out with social workers working with a) child welfare, b) treatment of abusers of drugs and alcohol, c) disabilities, d) elderly care and e) financial support, covering the complexity of needs as defined by Morris et al. (2008).

Two-three social workers and one manager in each field (a-e) of the four municipalities will generate approximately 60 interviews. This design was used in a similar way in a previous study on auditing in Swedish municipalities. In one of the large municipalities focus groups will be created, one for each service area, in all, five focus groups.

Subject: social work
Latest update: 2018-06-20