In this chapter I use a social constructionist and a social ecological perspective to argue that understandings of ‘normative’ families, within which children and young people develop, shift through time and across different contexts. Ideas about what constitutes families are given to us in a variety of ways such as through legislation, policy, social science (including psychology) and through popular culture and cultural practices. How we construct families and children has an impact on the design of services and ways of working. I will argue that practice is constructed through understandings of families, how families are viewed and what roles and functions families perform. In this chapter I use the terminology of ‘normative’ and ‘non-normative’ purposefully to examine assumptions at play in understanding what are seen as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ families. It is argued that by assuming an ideal or normative form, families that are in some way different from this norm will be judged as deviant and failing. In this chapter, three key areas are discussed: what constitutes a normative family and how other families are different; understandings of non-normative families; and the implications of these other issues for practice.
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