Social work and black bodies
: Why skin and hair matter for, and to, children and young people

  • Zoe Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The focus of this research is on the lived experiences of young people who are black in relation to skin colour and hair, how social work understands these experiences and how equipped social workers feel to work with these. This is a qualitative study carried out with 20 respondents in all. Twelve young black women, aged between 17 and 22, participated in individual interviews and a focus group. A further eight respondents, from a variety of social work settings including practice and education, participated in interviews. The findings highlight the importance of skin colour and hair to black children and young people and the significant influence they can have on lived experience. The research found that social workers, in both education and practice settings, did not feel they had sufficient knowledge about the needs and experiences of children and young people who are black in relation to skin colour and hair and were not engaged in discussing or learning about such issues. This research contributes to social work knowledge around working with black families and underscores the need to understand the significance of skin colour and hair to black identity.
Date of Award10 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrid Featherstone (Main Supervisor) & Santokh Gill (Co-Supervisor)

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