The child, the parents, the family and the state

Chile and Norway compared

  • Ingunn T. Ellingsen
  • Ingunn Studsrød
  • Carolina Muñoz-Guzmán
Keywords: Children’s position, Child welfare work, Complex families, Family understanding, Welfare policies, posición de los niños, Trabajo de bienestar infantil, familias complejas, comprensión de las familias, políticas de bienestar


There is a lack of research comparing Latin American and European countries alongside how family policy relates to social work practices. This study fills in the research gap, and compares Chilean and Norwegian social workers’ conceptions of children’s position in the family, in family work in a complex family case, and how their understandings impact on CWS practices when working with families with complex needs in each context. A total of 19 social workers participated in the study. The participants took part in four focus groups, discussing a complex family case (vignette). The results of the analysis reveal similarities and difference across contexts, according to children’s position in CWS work, social worker’s understandings of the responsibilities of parents and the type of family interventions they were inclined to offer. The Chilean social workers seem more family-, and adult-oriented than their Norwegian counterparts, which holds an individualized child oriented view when discussing the case. Moreover, when issues interventions, the Norwegian social workers seems to relay more on the state, whereas the Chilean workers place more trust on the family network. Practical implications of the findings are discussed in light of family welfare policy and child welfare discourses.

Los niños, sus padres, las familias y el Estado. Chile y Noruega comparados.
Hay una escasez de investigaciones que comparen América Latina y los países europeos, en términos de cómo las políticas de familia se relacionan con las prácticas de los trabajadores sociales. Este estudio se posiciona en este vacío investigativo, y compara la concepción de trabajadores sociales noruegos y chilenos respecto la posición de los niños en las familias, en el trabajo con familias en casos de familias complejas, y cómo sus interpretaciones impactan en las prácticas del sistema de protección infantil cuando trabajan con familias con necesidades complejas en cada contexto. Un total de 19 trabajadores sociales participaron en el estudio. Los participantes tomaron parte de cuatro grupos focales donde discutieron un caso de familia compleja (viñeta). Los resultados del análisis revelan similitudes y diferencias entre los dos contextos, de acuerdo a la posición de los niños en el trabajo del sistema de protección infantil, la concepción de los trabajadores sociales sobre la responsabilidad de los padres; y el tipo de intervención en familias que son más propensos a ofrecer. Los trabajadores sociales chilenos parecen más orientados hacia la familia (y a los adultos), que sus pares noruegos, quienes sostienen una visión más orientada hacia la individualización de los niños en la discusión del caso. Por otra parte,  cuando se trata de las intervenciones, los trabajadores sociales noruegos parecen apoyarse más en el Estado, mientras que los chilenos ponen más la confianza en las redes familiares. Las implicaciones prácticas de estos hallazgos son discutidas a la luz de las políticas de bienestar familiar y los discursos sobre bienestar infantil.

Author Biographies

Ingunn T. Ellingsen

Professor in Social Work
Department of social studies, University of Stavanger

Ingunn Studsrød

Professor in Social Work
Department of social studies, University of Stavanger

Carolina Muñoz-Guzmán

Associate Professor in Social Work
School of social work, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile


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How to Cite
Ellingsen, I. T., Studsrød, I., & Muñoz-Guzmán, C. (2019). The child, the parents, the family and the state: Chile and Norway compared. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 14(1), 93 - 114.
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