Skip to main content

Stan Houston

Photo of Stan Houston
Stan Houston

BSc(Hons), MA, CQSW, CACC, PhD, Advanced Award in Social Work
Professor in Social Work
Room: 02/015, 6 College Park
Ext: 5968; email:

I have worked in child and family social work for around twenty years before entering higher education in 1997. My main research interest lies in the application of critical social theory to social work. I have attained 60 publications drawing on this theoretical source.  In this context, I have utilised and re-worked the theories of Habermas, Bourdieu, Giddens, Honneth, Layder and Bhaskar to provide a critical account of modern social work including ways of enhancing practice to tackle social injustice. A particular interest lies in critical realism. I have also published artilces on moral philosophy and its connection with ethical issues in social work practice. More recently, I have drawn on critical social theory to add insights to existing qualitative methods such as ‘Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis’. Most of my published work appears in peer-reviewed journals with high impact ratings. I have attained 10 publications in the British Journal of Social Work.

In terms of empirical research, I am interested in the application of qualitative methods to the evaluation of child and family social work. More specifically, I am interested in developing social work practice and critical reflection through the use of action research and action learning sets. To this end, I have applied action research within residential child care and am keep to develop local research in this setting. Other research includes a study on social workers’ court reports in cases of child care and teaching and education on child protection. I am keen to offer doctoral supervision in relation to any of these themes particlularly where the student is interested in applying theories from the social sciences to understand complex human behaviours. I have successfully supervised five students to completion of higher research degrees (three PhDs and one, MPHil).

In terms of teaching, I have been extensively involved in the development of post-qualifying social work education, both regionally and within the univesity. I am currently the course co-ordinator for the MSc in Applied Social Studies (Child Care Pathway). This course aims to develop advanced practice in child and family social work drawing on theories of attachment, human growth and behaviour, resilience, trauma and systems theory.

In my current role as Director of Postgraduate Research, I am currently a member of the School’s Senior Management Board.

My career progression within higher eduaction is as follows: 1997 – lecturer in social work, University of Ulster; 1998-2004 – lecturer in social work, Queen’s University Belfast; 2005-2012: senior lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast; 2012 – Reader in social work, Queen’s University Belfast; 2013 - Professor.

Recent publications


Houston, S. (2014) Reflecting on Psycho-Domains in Social Work. Belfast: NISCC

Chapters in Books

Houston, S. (2014) Getting Back to Things Themselves in Harrikon et al (eds.) Social Change and Social Work, London: Ashgate.

Houston, S (2014) Critical Realism in Coghlan, B (ed.) Encylopedia of Action Research, London: Sage (forthcoming).

Houston, S. (2013) Social Work and the Sociological Imagination, in Garrett, P.M. Children and Families, Bristol: Policy Press

Houston, S. (2012) ‘Risk Assessment: A Quick Guide’, in Griffiths, K. (ed.) The Social Work Toolkit, Basinstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Houston, S. (2013) ‘Jurgen Habermas’, in Webb, S. & Gray, M. (eds.) Social Work: Theories and Methods, London: Sage. (2nd edition).

Houston, S. (2011) Child and Family Social Work: Towards a Sociological Understanding in Gray, M., Midgley, J. & Webb, S. Eds.) Social Work Handbook, London: Sage.

Houston, S. (2011) Engaging with the Crooked Timbre of Humanity: Value Pluralism and Social Work in Littlechild, B. (ed.) Values in Social Work, London: BASW.

Houston, S. (2010) Discourse Ethics in Gray. M & Webb, S. (eds.) Ethics and Values in Social Work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Houston, S. (2009) Jurgen Habermas in Gray, M. & Webb, S. (eds.) Social Work: Theories and Methods, London: Sage.

Houston, S. (2007) Re-Affirming the Face to Face: Habermas' Critical Theory and Social Work, in Webb, S. & Gray, M. (eds.) Critical Perspectives in Social Work. Sage.

Duffy, J. & Houston, S. (2007) Competence under Child Care Legislation, Policy and Research, in O'Hagan, K. Competence in Social Work. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Houston, S. (2006) Making Use of Positive Psychology in Residential Child Care in, Iwaniec, D. (ed.) The Child's Journey Through Care: Placement Stability, Care Planning, and Achieving Permanancy. London: Wiley

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Houston, S. (2014) Meta-Theoretical Paradigms Underpinning Risk in Child Welfare: Towards a Position of Methodological Pragmatism, Children and Youth Services Review (forthcoming).

Houston, S. (2012) ‘Reviewing the Coming Crisis in Social Work: A Response to Longhofer and Floersch, Research on Social Work Practice (in press).

Houston, S. & Mullan-Jensen, C. (2011) Towards Depth and Width in Qualitative Social Work: Aligning Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis with the Theory of Social Domains, Qualitative Social Work (forthcoming).

Houston, S. (2011) Using Action Research to Enhance Resilience in a Children’s Home: An Exploration of Need, Experience and Role, Child Care in Practice, 17, 115-130.

Houston, S. (2011) Working in the ‘System’ and ‘Lifeworld’: Using Action Research to Enhance Resilience and Attachment in a Children’s Home, Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care, 10: 29-36.

Houston, S. (2011) Working with the Crooked Timber of Humanity: Value Pluralism and Social Work, British Journal of Social Work, Advanced Access.

Houston, S., Spratt, T. & Devaney, J. (2011) Mandated Prevention in Child Welfare: Considerations from a Framework Shaping Ethical Inquiry, Journal of Social Work (in press).

Houston, S. (2011) Building Resilience in a Children’s Home: Results from an Action Research Project, Child and Family Social Work (in press).

Houston, S. (2010) Prising Open the Black Box: Critical Realism, Action Research and Social Work, Qualitative Social Work, 9(1): 73-91.

Houston, S (2010) Beyond Homo Economicus: Recognition, Self-realization and Social work, British Journal Social Work, 41: 841-857.
Houston, S. (2009) Further Reflections on Habermas' Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection: An Examination of Power in Social Life, British Journal of Social Work, Advanced Access.

Houston, S. (2008) Transcending Ethno-Religious Identities: Social Work’s Role in the Struggle for Recognition in Northern Ireland, Australian Social Work, 61(1): 25-41.

Houston, S. (2008) Communication, Recognition and Social Work: Aligning the Ethical Theories of Habermas and Honneth, British Journal of Social Work, 39(7): 1274-1290.

Houston, S. & Dolan, P. (2008) Conceptualising Family Support: Honneth’s Theory of Recognition, Children & Society, 22(6): 458-469.

Hayes, D. & Houston, S. (2007) Lifeworld, System and Family Group Conferences: Haberamas’ Contribution to Discourse in Child Protection, British Journal of Social Work, forthcoming.

Houston, S., Skehill, C., Pinkerton, J. & Campbell, J. (2005) Prying Open the Space for Social Work in the New Millenium: Four Theoretical Perspectives on Transformative Practice, Social Work & Social Sciences Review, 12, 35-52.

Houston, S. (2005) Philosophy, Theory and Method in Social Work: Challenging Empiricism’s Claim on Evidence-based Practice, Journal of Social Work, 5, p. 7-20.

Houston, S. (2014). Assessing Parenting Capacity in Child Protection: Towards a Knowledge-Based Model. Child and Family Social Work (forthcoming).

Other publications                       Other activities