Children and childhood in Chile

Social worker perspectives


  • Ida Bruheim Jensen
  • Ingunn T. Ellingsen
  • Ingunn Studsrød
  • Manuela Garcia Quiroga



child protection, Chile, social workers, understandings of children and childhood, Q methodology, protección infantil, trabajadores sociales, concepciones sobre los niños y la infancia, metodología Q


This study explores understandings of children and childhood among 21 social workers from five child protection services in Chile. To help grasp multiple ideas about children and childhood, we use Q methodology and the ‘child visibility’ concept. The object is to explore dissimilar and/or similar views on child visibility among social workers and the characteristics of these viewpoints. The results reveal three distinct views on child visibility. Based on the characteristics of these perspectives, we have conceptualized the workers associated with them as: activists, buffers and experts. The activists vigorously seek children’s own perspectives, and produce an image of capable children with unique perspectives. The buffers and the experts, however, typically define children’s needs from their own perspectives. Nevertheless, through differing logics, the experts focus on children’s vulnerability and protection needs, while the buffers are more inclined to view children in terms of their contextual risk and on the margins in an underfunded child protection context. Despite these differences, there are shared viewpoints among the social workers, for example, by understanding children as relational. The results are discussed in light of current theory within childhood studies.

Niños e infancia en Chile: Perspectivas de los trabajadores sociales.
Este estudio explora las concepciones que sobre los niños y la infancia desarrollan 21 trabajadores sociales de cinco servicios de protección infantil en Chile. Para comprender estas múltiples ideas, utilizamos la Metodología Q y el concepto de “visibilidad del niño”. El objeto es explorar perspectivas similares o diferentes respecto a la visión que tienen los trabajadores sociales sobre este grupo social, así como las características de esos puntos de vista. Los resultados revelan tres tipos de visión distintivos sobre los niños. Con base a las características de estas tres perspectivas, hemos conceptualizado a los trabajadores sociales asociados con ellas como: activistas, baluartes, y expertos. Los activistas buscan vigorosamente las perspectivas de los propios infantes y producen una imagen de que los niños poseen capacidades y perspectivas únicas. Los otros dos grupos, sin embargo, típicamente definen las necesidades de los niños desde sus propias representaciones. A través de lógicas distintas, los expertos se enfocan en la vulnerabilidad de los infantes y sus necesidades de protección; mientras los baluartes están más inclinados a ver a los niños en términos de sus propios riesgos contextuales, y en los márgenes de un contexto de protección infantil con financiación insuficiente. A pesar de estas diferencias, existen puntos de vista comunes entre los trabajadores sociales, por ejemplo, al entender a los niños en términos relacionales. Estos resultados son discutidos a la luz de las teorías actuales dentro de los estudios de la infancia.

Author Biographies

Ida Bruheim Jensen

PhD fellow
Department of Social Studies, University of Stavanger

Ingunn T. Ellingsen

Department of Social Studies, University of Stavanger

Ingunn Studsrød

Department of Social Studies, University of Stavanger

Manuela Garcia Quiroga

Assistant Professor
School of Psychology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso


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How to Cite

Jensen, I. B., Ellingsen, I. T., Studsrød, I., & Quiroga, M. G. (2019). Children and childhood in Chile: Social worker perspectives. Journal of Comparative Social Work, 14(1), 141–164.