How do social workers define the concept of family?

Belle Gavriel-Fried*, Guy Shilo, Orna Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Social changes in the Western world have led to changes in the traditional family structure and to the emergence of new family structures. Despite the involvement of social workers with a broad range of family types, their perceptions of the concept of family have never been studied. This study examines how social workers define the concept of family, and how personal values, socio-demographic variables and personal acquaintance with non-traditional types of families affect these definitions. Five hundred and two Israeli social workers responded to an online questionnaire; 89.6-98.8́ per cent of respondents attributed the 'family' label to any relationship or living arrangement involving children. Hierarchical linear regression analysis revealed that gender, religiosity, age, level of education, as well as universalism and benevolence values were direct predictors of a broad definition of the concept of family. In addition, the variable of personal acquaintance with non-traditional families was found to moderate some of the socio-demographic and the values examined. The discussion deals with how the respondents' perception of family is consistent with the views of a society that promotes a high birth rate, and with the associations found between the study variables, and the importance of exposing social workers to non-traditional types of families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1010
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Family
  • personal acquaintance with non-traditional families
  • personal values
  • social workers


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