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Referrals of child abuse and neglect to an English social services department: predictors of child protection decisions

Egan-Sage, Elmarie (1996) Referrals of child abuse and neglect to an English social services department: predictors of child protection decisions. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86195) (KAR id:86195)


Little is known about how child protection decision making happens and why some children travel through the entire sytsem whereas others are filtered out. Neither has the impact of the Children Act 1989 been investigated. This thesis attempts to answer these and other questions. It describes 2,609 child abuse and neglect referrals to Kent Social Services before and after the implementation of the Act. It examines which factors predict child protection decisions and it investigates the effects of the Act. It also examines case conference decision making.

It was hypothesized that some referral factors would predict firstly, whether a recommendation would be made to hold a conferences (recommendation decision), and secondly whether a conference would actually be held (case conference decision). The findings show that factors such as the social services district and the referrer's status predict whether a child would be registered (registration decision). Such variables include the social services district, whether the child's father attended on his own and the presence of certain professionals. Multivariate analysis further revealed links between significant variables in predicting these three decisions.

The Children Act had an impact. Positive findings include increased parental attendance at conferences. The decreased rate of referrals leading to conferences, the decreased registration rate and the child's history of the child protection system becoming predictive of registration, have to be viewed more cautiously. Only one sixth of referrals resulted in registration - suggesting that an initial response, other than a child protection investigation, may sometimes be more appropriate. How case conferences function as a group was discussed in the context of the social psychology of groups, with reference to the notion of 'groupthink'. Findings reveal that conflict concerning decisions made at conferences was rarely recorded.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86195
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: child protection; social services; Children Act 1989
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:33 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 19:59 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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