This article examines the use of socialization theory in social workers’ considerations of child development. The author analyses assessments of lesbians and gay men who applied to foster or adopt children, in order to demonstrate social workers’ reliance upon ‘gender role models’. Drawing upon feminist work, the article goes on to critique socialization theory, before outlining versions of ‘gender’ found in discourse theory and ethnomethodology. Using these methodologies, the author proposes that gender role theory does not describe a child development ‘need’, but rather constructs a particular account that is limited and conservative. The article considers the implications of this reliance upon socialization theory for lesbian and gay foster care and adoption, and instead proposes that social work should develop less restrictive accounts of gender and sexuality
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