Between the maternal and the professional: The impact of being a child welfare officer on motherhood

Ayelet Menashe, Chaya Possick, Eli Buchbinder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Child welfare officers experience stress from exposure to child neglect and abuse and the burden of responsibility for children's well-being. This qualitative study addresses the question: How do social workers who are child welfare officers perceive and cope with the influence of their professional occupation on their relationships with their own children? The research is based on in-depth interviews with a purposive sample of 10 child welfare workers who are mothers (of 2-4 children aged 2-23 years). The data analysis illustrates how the professional identity and the maternal identity of the child welfare officer fluctuate between two positions. The first is 'anxious motherhood' in which anxiety is the prism through which the welfare officer views the world as dangerous for her children, stimulating protective, control-enhancing actions. The second position is reflective motherhood in which the welfare worker struggles with her own stresses and conflicts as a mother and searches for an experience of meaningful, positive motherhood. The findings reinforce the need to raise the consciousness of child welfare officers regarding the impact of encountering distress and trauma on their own well-being as parents. In this way, they can prevent secondary traumatization and enhance professional and maternal growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-400
Number of pages10
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Child abuse
  • Child welfare worker
  • Countertransference
  • Secondary traumatization
  • Social workers and motherhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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