Alfred Kadushin (1916 – February 5, 2014) was a Professor of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1950 to 1990. He then became the Julia C. Lathrop Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Social Work after retiring from teaching. As a scholar, Kadushin is credited for creating the initial theoretical framework behind the academic field of Social Work research.
Kadushin was born to Jewish emigres from Lithuania, and raised in the Bronx. During university he worked as a letter carrier in Harlem. He received his PhD from New York University in 1950.
Kadushin began work as a New York City social work caseworker between 1947 and 1950, before becoming a professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was the first Social Work faculty member to receive a Distinguished Professorship from his university, given to him in 1979. He was a Fulbright Lecturer between 1957 and 1958 at the Groningen School of Social Work in the Netherlands. Other international lecturer positions held by Kadushin include those at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel between 1960 and 1961; McGill University in 1972; Tel Aviv University in 1981, and Melbourne University as well as LaTrobe University, Australia in 1987. In the US he taught courses at Columbia University, Tulane University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and San Diego State College. In 1983 he was named a Distinguished Scientist Associate in Social Work by the National Academies of Practice. In 1993 he received the lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Social Workers, an organization that has referred to him as a “giant” in his field.
Over his career, Kadushin published sixty-six academic articles and six books. His books include Child Welfare Services, The Social Work Interview, Supervision in Social Work, Social Work Consultation, Adopting Older Children, and Child Abuse. Later editions of his books were co-authored by Daniel Harkness (Supervision in Social Work) and his daughter Goldie Kadushin (The Social Work Interview). After the publication of the fifth edition of that book (the second edition they worked on together), the Huffington Post published an article about their collaboration, in which Goldie stated that, “I had the opportunity to get to know my dad in a different way, adult to adult … We had very meaningful talks and I got a glimpse of how he sees the world.”
Examples of his research included a study of 100 children put up for adoption between the ages of five and eleven, released in 1969. He showed that children did not necessarily suffer from irreparable emotional damage after being removed from abusive households and placed in adoptive homes, as had been the assumption in the past. These studies followed children for between six and eight years, and showed that children had the ability to adjust to and thrive in their new surroundings. A study of 91 families released in 1971 showed that older children were able to adapt after being placed with adoptive families as well.
Kadushin was the keynote speaker for major conferences on the subject of child care in the US. Additionally, he participated in public hearings and debates regarding public policy on social welfare, from 1951 forwards.
Kadushin was one of the first to discuss the difference between the physical punishment of children and unacceptable child abuse. His research included interviewing parents who had used physical punishment on their children and imagining how they must appear to their children after the event. The majority of parents stated that they believed their children would feel negatively towards them, even hate them, for the experience. Duncan Lindsey wrote of Kadushin’s contribution that his “definition was illustrative of how psychological theories that had been evolving steadily since the 1920s were being integrated into social welfare practice”.
Duncan Lindsey stated more generally of Kadushin’s work that, “The decades from 1950 to 1970, which saw the rapid growth of the public child welfare system, were characterized by an effort to construct an empirical knowledge base that would guide and inform public policy regarding the child welfare system. Alfred Kadushin synthesized the results of the emerging research into a theoretical framework that firmly established the field.”
As a part of this, Kadushin pointed out that child welfare services are difficult to compartmentalize, and that a functioning system requires a hybridization of services and multiple points of care. He wrote the first child welfare research book, in which he criticized pre-1970s child welfare literature as being of “dubious validity”, calling for a more patient and rigorous methodology. In this effort he was said to have “developed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of research in the child welfare field”.