The Sociological Imagination: The Effect of Personal Experiences on the Public

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The Sociological Imagination

Focussing on Goodwin's quote, I intend to discuss through this essay, the fact that for social workers, the most important thing that sociology can teach is not how ‘personal issues’ may be public issues, but in fact how people’s experiences of personal issues effect public concerns and policy and shape everybody’s lives, thus how their service users’ issues are in fact public issues. To answer the question in brief, poverty is an aspect of contemporary society that can affect anyone at any time, therefore it is of everyone’s concern and is a public issue. For social workers, while it is important to acknowledge how poverty is often a very personal experience for people, it is something that is affected
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It is widely accepted that the stress of poverty has long term implications on people’s health; limiting long-term illness among people of working age is not only a potential cause of poverty but also a potential consequence of it (http://www.poverty.org.uk/i61/index.shtml). Piachaud also notes this association, stating that ‘there are large differences in health and mortality that are linked to income and social class’, (Piachaud in Ellison and Pierson 1998 p.239).
While these examples are not specific to everyone’s experiences when living in poverty, they highlight the various affects on individuals and families when living in poverty. Indeed, they highlight how people’s experiences of poverty make it a personal issue. However, as will be discussed, personal issues of poverty also highlight that poverty is not an isolated concern but is linked to several other social issues, making it a public concern and a public issue.
The Frank Butler Trust recently commissioned a research project that was undertaken by researchers from York University and NSPCC’s child protection team. The overall aims of the research project were to explore the relationships between poverty, parenting and children’s well-being in diverse social contexts, from the perspectives of parents, children and professionals. The sample was
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