Doctoral Dissertation

23.4.2016 M.Soc.Sc. Susanna Rautio (Faculty of Social Sciences, Sociology)


23.4.2016 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , Vanha juhlasali, S212
M.Soc.Sc. Susanna Rautio defends her doctoral dissertation in Sociology ”Neuvolan perhetyö vanhemmuuden varhaisena tukena ja yhteistyönä”. Opponent Adjunct Professor, Associate Professor Johanna Hurtig (University of Lapland) and custos Professor Kimmo Jokinen (University of Jyväskylä).

Susanna Rautio, photo: Olli Suhonen

M.Soc.Sc. Susanna Rautio defends her doctoral dissertation in Sociology ”Neuvolan perhetyö vanhemmuuden varhaisena tukena ja yhteistyönä”. Opponent Adjunct Professor, Associate Professor Johanna Hurtig (University of Lapland) and custos Professor Kimmo Jokinen (University of Jyväskylä). The dissertation is held is Finnish.


This study investigates experiences of early support and family work of­fered via child health centres from the perspectives of parents and professionals. This model of family work was part of a national development project in so­cial and health services. The study comprises three sub-studies and their resulting publications three peer-reviewed articles and a summary of the research process. Three datasets were gathered; semi-structured interviews from parents (n=9) and family professionals (n=8), and diary data from family professionals (n=8) working in the family work development project. The data analysis included both narrative analysis and content analysis. The purpose of the first sub-study was to explore the self-reported experiences of parents who were receiving family support from their local maternity and child health clinic. The second and the third substudies focused on the viewpoints of the professionals. The research questions addressed in the three articles were: How did families experience this innovative support model in practice? How did the professionals involved experience this particular approach to family work in their relations both to the client families and to other professionals, and what challenges did the model present? What challenges and high points pertaining to client empowerment did the professionals experience in their daily work with their client families?

Alongside these experiences, a further aim was to identify the controversies, tensions, and cultural expectations linked to work that is done between the private and public spheres of family life. In the summary, I outline the results and perform a secondary analysis. The research question in this summary was: How do the private and public spheres meet in family work, and how are criticisms of family work and the support received linked to each other in practice? A further purpose was to study the possibilities for family work afforded via the guidance work done by child health clinics. Throughout the study, also the issue of control in the provision of support is also noted. Finally, the benefits and challenges linked to project-based support services in social and health care are discussed. The main theoretical concepts of interest in this study are on the one hand supporting families with children and parenting, and on the other multiprofessionality. Concepts intertwined with these are early support, prevention and interventions, risks and awareness of risks, the project society and shared expertise.

The study found that support, especially the use of home visits, was valued by parents. Parents respected the professionals’ expertise, time and family-centred working but would have wanted concrete help with house work and child care. For parents, preventive support can also be experienced as controlling or stigmatizing.  Asking for support, receiving home visits and having to talk about private family issues or possible challenges in parenting can be a highly sensitive or ambivalent situation for parents.  Expectations about support and parenting and reality can diverge widely. The study shows that the possibilities and benefits, tensions and contradictions inherent in family work and support are simultaneously present. Seeing the client families as partners in family work can decrease their feeling of being controlled.

The professionals reported that family-centred home visiting was a useful method and benefited both the child and the work of the maternity clinic. The process was helped by having clients in common and shared information and understanding about working with each family. When collaboration was fluent, the work was experienced as successful and helpful. On the other hand, lack of resources and the ongoing changes in the work culture in health and social services presented challenges. Collegial support and standardized working practices emerged in this study as an important means to achieve the best possible outcomes from inter-professional collaboration in the delivering of effective support to client families.  The benefits of the family support model studied here included increased collaboration between the different actors working to support families with children. The results can be utilized in developing similar projects and models of early support, and in promoting the working culture of professionals, especially inter-professional collaboration between the domains of so­cial and health care. 

Keywords: Parenting support, early support, child health center, home visit, family work, family professionals

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Susanna Rautio