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Seeking, safety and signalling: carers’ interpretation of self-harm in looked-after children and young people.

Evans, Rhiannon ORCID: 2019. Seeking, safety and signalling: carers’ interpretation of self-harm in looked-after children and young people. Presented at: BSA Annual Conference 2019 - Challenging Social Hierarchies and Inequalities, Glasgow, Scotland, 24-26 April 2019.

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Narratives of self-harm and suicide continue to receive scant theoretical and empirical attention. Indeed, (dis)continuities both within and across accounts remain largely overlooked. Uncovering meaning and tensions in narratives is imperative to understanding the complexity of causes, but also to comprehending motivations for responses, particularly the reactions of professionals. To date, research on ‘professional narratives’ have privileged the clinician and the clinic, with the repertoires of interpretations held by other professionals being underexamined. This presentation aims to remedy such an oversight through the presentation of interview data from thirty social care professionals, comprising foster carers and residential carers. It will explore the symbolic meaning that these professionals ascribe to self-harm and suicide among the children and young people they care for. Three repertoires of interpretation will be presented: survival, which conceives self-harm as a mechanism for negotiating and navigating the structurally disadvantaged position of “looked-after child”; signalling, which understands self-harm as a communicative tool for expressing emotional distress; and security, which sees self-harming practices as testing the authenticity and safety of the caring relationship. These registers of meaning are squarely located within a socio-cultural framework, with carers centralising the relational aspect of both causes and treatment. The presentation will consider how elicitation of these repertoires provides insight into the oft documented challenges of inter-professionals’ interactions. Carers’ juxtaposition of socio-cultural explanations with the bio-medical discourses they believe to be espoused by clinicians creates distance but also discord, particularly in regard to notion of expert identity and expertise

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Additional Information: Special Panel Convened by Dr Amy Chandler
Date of Acceptance: 23 January 2019
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 10:09

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