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Social Work: People


John Devaney

John Devaney
Professor John Devaney
Centenary Chair and Head of Social Work
2.30 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0) 131 651 5363
Research Interests
Child protection, Child Welfare, Domestic and gender based violence, Social work interventions, Child and Adolescent Development

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • By appointment


I qualified as a social worker in 1988, practising in statutory services firstly with children and adults with learning disabilities, before moving into services for children and families, primarily in relation to child protection and cared for children. During this period I held practitioner and then management positions. In 2004 I was awarded a PhD from Queen's University Belfast for a study on chronic child abuse, and in 2006 I took up a lectureship in social work at Queen's University Belfast, and was promoted to a senior lectureship in 2012.

During 2012 I was awarded a Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to study work in Norway and Canada with individuals who use violence and abuse within their intimate relationships. This formed the basis for a book with my colleague Anne Lazenbatt on Domestic Violence Perpetrators - Evidence informed responses.

Between 2012-2015 I was the chair of the Board of Trustees of the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (now the Association of Child Protection Professionals This is the largest multi-disciplinary body in the UK for professionals and academics working on issues related to the protection of children from maltreatment.

From 2012-2016 I returned to work part time in practice alonsgide my academic appointment when the Northern Ireland Minister of Health appointed me for four years to chair the Case Management Review Panel of the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland ( The Panel reviews cases involving the death or serious injury of children through maltreatment. 

In January 2018  I took up the position of the Centenary Chair of Social Work at the University of Edinburgh. In this post I am also the head of the social work subject area.

I am a member of the British Association of Social Workers, the  Association for Child Protection Professionals and the Association of Professors of Social Work.


I am very privileged to have the opportunity to teach both students who are new to the profession, and those who are returning to study while in practice. My teaching focuses specifically on issues relating to the exercise of professional duties around support and protection, child maltreatment, domestic violence and abuse, research methodologies, and leadership in social work. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Cuurent Supervision of Doctoral Students

Lauren Lamberton - New challenges in mental health provision: e-mental health support

Luke Power - Is it enough? A comparative examination of care leaver's health trajectories in Scotland and Canada.



My research focuses mainly on the broad area of family violence, with a particular focus on child homicide, child maltreatment, child welfare policy, domestic violence, and the impact of adversity in childhood across the lifecourse. I have an interest in comparative social policy, evaluations of practice and interventions, and policy development. My research spans both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. I have undertaken a range of research studies in both the UK and internationally, funded by research councils, government departments and philanthropic organisations (

Current Research Projects

2020-2021 The mental health and wellbeing of youth in care and care-leavers: Development of a national collaborative research agenda. Funded by the Medical Research Council.

2020-2022 A feasibility study of a prison-based parenting programme (Families Matter). Funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

2019-2023 Young people bereaved by domestic homicide: Understanding home, relationships and identity. Funded by the Australian Research Council.

2019-2023 Developing the evidence base for innovation in social care for children and families affected by domestic abuse. Funded by the ESRC.

2019-2022 Children living with domestic violence – understanding the effects on children’s wellbeing using longitudinal data. Funded by the Nuffield Foundation. 

2019-2022 Addressing the trauma-related distress of young people in care: A randomised feasibility trial across social-care and mental health services. Funded by the NIHR.

2019-2020 An evaluation of Fife Council's ABCD2020 Leadership Collaborative Programme. Funded by Fife Council.

2018-2020 The national evaluation of the NSPCC Speak Out, Stay Safe Programme. Funded by the NSPCC.

2017-2020 Identifying and Responding to the Trauma of Maltreated Children: a screening study and a feasibility trial of trauma-informed cognitive therapy.  Funded by the NSPCC and ESRC.

Select Publications


Holt, S., Overlien, C. and Devaney, J. (Editors) (2018) Responding to Domestic Violence Emerging Challenges for Policy, Practice and Research in Europe. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London. 

Teater, B., Devaney, J., Forrester, D., Scourfield, J. and Carpenter, J. (2017) Quantitative Research Methods for Social Work - Making Social Work Count. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Devaney, J. and Lazenbatt, A. (2016) Domestic Violence Perpetrators - Evidence informed responses. Routledge, Oxon.

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Coulter, S., Houston, S., Mooney, S., Devaney, J. and Davidson, G. (2019) Attaining Theoretical Coherence within Relationship-Based Practice in Child and Family Social Work: The Systemic Perspective.                                                                                                   British Journal of Social Work

Frederick, J., Devaney, J. and Alisic, E. (2019) Homicides and maltreatment-related deaths of disabled children: A systematic review.  Child Abuse Review 28(5): 321-338.

Spratt, T., Devaney, J. and Frederick, J. (2019) Adverse Childhood Experiences: Beyond Signs of Safety - reimagining the organisation and practice of social work with children and families. British Journal of Social Work, 49(8): 2042-2058

Millar, A., Devaney, J. and Butler, M. (2019) Emotional Intelligence: Challenging the Perceptions and Efficacy of 'Soft Skills' in Policing Incidents of Domestic Abuse Involving Children. Journal of Family Violence 34(6): 577-588

Butler, M., Percy, A., Hayes, D. and Devaney, J. (2019) Designing prison based parenting programs to maximize their outcomes. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 63(7): 975-992

Devaney, J. (2019) The trouble with thresholds: Rationing as a rational choice in child and family social work.                                                                                                                         Child & Family Social Work  24(4): 458-466

Wilson, K. and Devaney, J. (2018) Promoting contact for children in State care: learning from Northern Ireland on the development of a framework for assessing contact. Child Care in Practice. 24(3): 288-303

Hayes, D., Butler, M., Devaney, J. and Percy, A. (2018) Allowing imprisoned fathers to parent: maximising the potential benefits of prison based parenting programmes.          Child Care in Practice,  24(2): 181-197

Devaney, J., Hayes, D. and Spratt, T. (2017) The influences of training and experience in removal and reunification decisions involving children at risk of maltreatment: Detecting a ‘Beginner Dip’.                                                                                                                British Journal of Social Work, 47(8): 2364-2383

Teater, B., Roy, J., Carpenter, J., Forrester, D., Devaney, J., Scourfield, J. (2017). Making social work count: A curriculum innovation to teach quantitative research methods and statistical analysis to undergraduate social work students in the United Kingdom.  Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 37(5): 422- 437

Breckenridge, J., Devaney, J., Duncan, F., Kroll, T., Lazenbatt, A., Taylor, J. & Bradbury-Jones, C. (2017)  Conducting sensitive research with disabled women who experience domestic abuse during pregnancy: Lessons from a qualitative study. SAGE Research Methods.

Lamberton, L., Devaney, J. and Bunting, L. (2016) New challenges in family support: the use of digital technology in supporting parents. Child Abuse Review, 25: 359-372      

Devaney, J. and McConville, P. (2016) Childhood neglect – the Northern Ireland experience. Research, Policy and Planning, 32(1): 53-63.

Bradbury-Jones, C., Breckenridge, J., Devaney, J., Duncan, F., Kroll, T., Lazenbatt, A. and Taylor, J. (2015) Priorities and strategies for improving disabled women's access to maternity services when they are affected by domestic abuse: a multi-method study using concept maps. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15: 350-367

Spratt, T., Devaney, J. and Hayes, D. (2015) In and out of home care decisions: The influence of confirmation bias in developing decision supportive reasoning. Child Abuse & Neglect 49: 76-85

Benbenishty, R., Davidson-Arad, B., López, M., Devaney, J., Spratt, T., Koopmans, C., Knorth, E.J., Witteman, C.L.M., Del Valle, J.F. and Hayes, D. (2015) Decision making in child protection: An international comparative study on maltreatment substantiation, risk assessment and interventions recommendations, and the role of professionals’ child welfare attitudes. Child Abuse & Neglect 49: 63-75

Devaney, J. (2015) Research Review: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children. Irish Journal of Probation, 12: 79-94.

Bradbury-Jones, C., Breckenridge, J.P., Devaney, J., Kroll, T., Lazenbatt, A. and Taylor, J. (2015) Disabled women’s experiences of accessing and utilising maternity services when they are affected by domestic abuse: a critical incident technique study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15: 181-192

Devaney, J., Lazenbatt, A., Bunting, L., Davidson, G., Hayes, D. and Spratt, T. (2014). The relationship between cumulative adversity in childhood and adolescent suicide and accidental death. Developing Practice: The Child, Youth and Family Work Journal, 38: 15-31.

Devaney, J. (2014) Male Perpetrators of Domestic Violence: How should we hold them to account? The Political Quarterly, 85(4): 480-486.

Devaney, J., Lazenbatt, A., Bunting, L., Davidson, G., Hayes, D., and Spratt, T. (2014) The Relationship Between Cumulative Adversity in Childhood and Adolescent Suicide and Accidental Death. Developing Practice 38: 17-31.

Breckenridge, J.P., Devaney, J., Kroll, T., Lazenbatt, A., Taylor, J. and Bradbury-Jones, C. (2014) Access and utilisation of maternity care for disabled women who experience domestic abuse: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 14: 234-258

Lazenbatt, A. and Devaney, J. (2014) Older Women Living with Domestic Violence: Coping Resources and Mental Health and Wellbeing. Current Nursing Journal, 1(1): 10-22

Lazenbatt, A., Devaney, J. and Gildea, A. (2013) Older women living and coping with domestic violence. Community Practitioner, 86(2), February: 28-32.

Houston, S., Spratt, T. And Devaney, J. (2011) Mandated Prevention in Child Welfare: Considerations from a framework shaping ethical inquiry. Journal of Social Work 11(3): 287-305

Coman, W. and Devaney, J. (2011) Reflecting on Outcomes for Looked-after Children: An Ecological Perspective. Child Care in Practice 17(1): 37-53

Devaney, J., Lazenbatt, A. and Bunting, L. (2011) Inquiring into Non-Accidental Child Deaths – Reviewing the Review Process. British Journal of Social Work 41(2): 242-260

Davidson, G., Devaney, J. and Spratt, T. (2010) The impact of adversity in childhood on outcomes in adulthood: research lessons and limitations. Journal of Social Work 10(4): 369-390.

Devaney, J. (2009) Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence – Holding Men to Account. The Political Quarterly 80(4): 569-574.

McMahon, M., Devaney, J. and Lazenbatt, A. (2009) The role of theory in promoting social work values and its potential effect on outcomes in work with domestically violent men. Irish Journal of Probation 6: 151-170.

Devaney, J. and Spratt, T. (2009) Child abuse as a complex and wicked problem: Reflecting on policy developments in the United Kingdom in working with children and families with multiple problems. Children & Youth Services Review 31(6): 635-641.

Spratt, T. and Devaney, J. (2009) Identifying families with multiple problems: Perspectives of practitioners and managers in three nations British Journal of Social Work 39(3): 418-434.

Devaney, J. (2009) Chronic Child Abuse: The Characteristics and Careers of Children Caught in the Child Protection System. British Journal of Social Work 39(1): 24-45.

Devaney, J. (2008) Chronic Child Abuse and Domestic Violence – children and families with long-term and complex needs. Child & Family Social Work 13(4) 443-453

Devaney, J. (2008) Inter-professional working in child protection with families with long-term and complex needs. Child Abuse Review 17(4) 242-261

Hayes, D. and Devaney, J. (2004) Accessing Social Work Case Files for Research Purposes: Some Issues and Problems Qualitative Social Work 3(3) 313-333.

Devaney, J. (2004) Relating Outcomes to Objectives in Child Protection Child & Family Social Work 9(1) 27-38.

Devaney, J. (1999) An Evaluation of the Criteria Used in Decision Making in Child Protection Referrals Child Care in Practice 5(2) 151-160.

Book Chapters

Martin, E., Devaney, J. and Carney, G. (2018) ‘Older Women’s Experiences of Domestic Violence’ in Holt, S., Overlien, C. and Devaney, J. (Eds.) Responding to Domestic Violence: Emerging Challenges for Policy, Practice and Research in Europe. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London.

Holt, S. and Devaney, J. (2016) ‘Understanding Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence: prevalence, policy and practice’ in Healy, D., Hamilton, C., Daly, Y. and Butler, M. (Eds) The Routledge Handbook of Irish Criminology. Routledge, Oxon. 

Devaney, J. (2013) ‘Child Abuse’ in Davies, M. (Ed) The Blackwell Companion to Social Work. Fourth Edition. Wiley Blackwell, Oxford. 

López, M., Koopmans, A.C., Knorth, E.J., Witteman, C., Benbenishty, R., Davidson-Arad, B., del Valle, J.F., Spratt, T., Hayes, D., & Devaney, J. (2013). “Cross-national comparison of caseworkers’ attitudes towards child welfare issues and their impact in risk assessments and decisions to place a child out-of-home” in C. Canali & T. Vecchiato (Eds.), Foster care in Europe: what do we know about outcomes and evidence? Padova: Fondazione Emanuela Zancan. 

Devaney, J. and Reid, C. (2012) ‘Two countries, one border: the challenges and opportunities for protecting children on an all island basis – a critical turning point’ in Burns, K. and Lynch, D. (eds) Children's Rights and Child Protection: Critical Times, Critical Issues in Ireland. Manchester University Press, Manchester. 

Devaney, J., McAndrew, F. and Rodgers, T. (2010) ‘Our Children and Young People – Our Shared Responsibility: The Reform Implementation Process in Child Protection Services in Northern Ireland’ in Stafford, A., Vincent, S. and Parton, N. (eds) Child Protection Reform Across the United Kingdom. Dunedin Academic Press Ltd, Edinburgh. 

Pinkerton, J. and Devaney, J. (2009) ‘Safeguarding Children: vision, working hypotheses and negotiations’ in Adams, R., Dominelli, L. and Payne, M. (Eds) Critical Practice in Social Work (Second Edition) Palgrave, Hampshire. 

Devaney, J. (2008) ‘Challenging output based performance management in child protection’ in Calder, M. (Ed) Contemporary Risk Assessment. Russell House Publishers, Lyme Regis. 

Topics interested in supervising

I am interested in supervising students who wish to pursue doctoral level studies in the areas of child maltreatment; child welfare; childhood adversity; domestic violence and abuse; social work practice; evaluations of practice and interventions; adolescent mental health.

If you are interested in being supervised by John Devaney, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Work; MSc (R) Social Work