This special issue of Child & Family Social Work focuses on a core concern of the journal, that is, family. Traditionally, within western societies, ‘the family’ has been conceptualized as a constellation of relationships defined on the basis of the biological connection between individuals (blood relatives) or their legal relationship (as in the case of marriage or adoption). More recently, social changes have exposed the inadequacies of such an approach to the study of families. For example, empirical work has demonstrated that family relationships following divorce fit poorly within traditional expectations and defy categorization (Smart & Neale 1999). Just one example of this difficulty is apparent if we consider the sets of relationships created between the children of parents who divorce or separate, re-partner or remarry, on one or more occasions, and go on to have further children. Previous categories of ‘full sibling’ and ‘half-sibling’ have been supplemented with terms such as ‘step sibling’ and ‘social sibling’ in order to try to capture this complexity (Akhtar & Kramer 1999; Elgar & Head 1999). Yet it is difficult for such categories to fully convey the ways in which these relationships are experienced by those involved or the meanings attached to these relationships (Edwards et al. 2005).
- family practices