Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Family social work, Families, Gay couples, Lesbian couples, Gays-Family relationships, Lesbians-Family relationships, Discourse analysis, Family, Heteronormativity, Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Discourse, Social work


The social work profession has a long, enduring history and commitment to American families, and has often led the way in embracing alternative family arrangements. Gay and lesbian families are gaining more political visibility and lobbying for the rights and protections from which they were previously excluded. Therefore, this study is an analysis of social work's contemporary, defining representations of gay and lesbian families. Twelve, gay and lesbian "family" research studies were culled from the database, Social Work Abstracts, and subjected to queer discourse analysis in order to illuminate how these alternative family forms are being constructed within the discipline and the ways in which social work potentially relies upon and produces heteronormativity. Queer discourse analysis operates as a mode of textual analysis that examines heteronormative phenomena through the problematization of binary constructions rooted in the notion of fixed or stable identities. This study indicates that gay and lesbian families are ultimately invited to join, but not to change the traditional terms of "family," thus making the social work research less of an exploration of alternative family forms and more of an endorsement of alternative, nuclear families. By clinging to normative, nuclear family features, social work misses out on the richness, creativity, and diversity of the queer family laboratory and also fails to validate or make available alternative relationship possibilities for everyone.




iv, 68 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 60-68)