Emotional Interest Representation and the Politics of Risk in Child Protection

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Emotional Interest Representation and the Politics of Risk in Child Protection


  • Jo Warner School of Social Policy, Sociology & Social Research, University of Kent, UK


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Abstract:  This article explores the emotional dimensions of political representation by British Members of Parliament (MP) in relation to child protection. The public speech acts and first-hand accounts of three MPs are drawn upon as examples. These highlight different forms of emotional interest representation that arise following the death of a local child from severe abuse or neglect and in response to anxieties in the community about risk. Firstly, I examine the role of the MP in seeking to embody their constituency in the public expression of collective emotional responses and to defend it from feelings of guilt and shame. Personal feelings of guilt and a consciousness of the politician’s role in attributing blame are then considered. Thirdly, I explore the role of the MP as trusted envoy for anxieties about risk to individual children within their constituencies. The article draws on Berezin’s concept of the secure state and Hochschild’s notion of politicians as feeling legislators, and is based on qualitative documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with MPs. It is argued that the emotional processes outlined are central to understanding the problematic relationship between politics and state social work that fuels the cycle of crisis and reform in children’s services in the UK.

Keywords:  child protection; emotion; Members of Parliament; representation; risk; social work

Published:   28 December 2018


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v6i4.1521


© Jo Warner. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.