Disguised compliance or undisguised nonsense? A critical discourse analysis of compliance and resistance in social work practice
This article examines how the term ‘disguised compliance’ first emerged and developed into the popular catchphrase that is used in practice today. Using critical discourse analysis, we explore how language affects practice and how social workers draw on a predetermined concept to rationalise concerns relating to parental resistance. We contend that concepts such as disguised compliance are misleading as they do not improve social workers’ abilities in detecting resistance or compliance. Instead, we argue that social workers should be cautious when using popular mantras which, on the surface, appear effective in describing parents’ behaviours but, in reality, conceal concerns relating to risk, accountability and blame. This study differs from the current literature that advocates social workers should be aware of disguised compliance by shifting the emphasis away from the behaviours of parents and towards acknowledging the power such discursive activities can have on practice.
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