Environmental factors, peers & community

This section considers assessment of environmental factors, including the impact of family, peers and community and provides examples of how information may be collected to aid assessment.

individuals do not live in a vacuum, rather they exist within complex systems made up of their immediate surroundings, social networks, cultural communities, set within a wider social structure.

Baldwin & Walker in Adams et al. (2005)

Often referred to as the missing side of the triangle, it is important that the role of the wider family and the community are assessed. Extended families can be seen as a source of support but also as a source of anguish, the latter ranging from parents not wanting to admit that they are having problems to deep-rooted issues that have been around for many years. In the same vein a supportive community or peer group can offer considerable help and assistance (both practical and emotional), however social isolation or a negative peer group can be a severely limiting factor.

The environment in which a child lives can have a significant impact on their development. For example, on relation to poverty, Ridge (2009) reviewed available evidence and concluded that the "experience of poverty in childhood can be highly damaging" identifying that the effects were disruptive and wide-ranging. These included the child potentially experiencing economic and material disadvantages, but also experiencing hidden issues associated with shame, fear of difference and stigma. However, that a family is living in poverty does not mean that a child is being neglected, hence the need to adopt an all round approach to assessment and ask yourself how the child is experiencing this situation.

The Assessment Framework identifies dimensions of family and environmental factors which assessments should consider:

The following table provides a model for analysing the impact of community on parents and children:

From: NSPCC, 2006. The Developing World of the Child: Seeing the child (p.29)

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