RN11_05a: Emotions in Welfare and Care
Respecifying ‘Worry’: How Clients Manage the ‘Subjective Side’ of Welfare Service-Seeking
Umeå University, Sweden
This paper uses discursive psychology (DP) to investigate and respecify ‘worry’ as an interactional achievement and resource. The DP perspective involves conceptualizing emotion as something people ‘do’, display, or invoke in interaction with other people, and investigating in detail its social functions in different settings. In the study, we analyze a corpus of 366 recorded phone calls to the Swedish Social Insurance Agency’s customer service for housing allowance – a benefit specifically targeting financially vulnerable youth and families with children. In these data, we examine how clients’ ‘worry’ is made interactionally relevant, where in the calls this happens, and what functions it has. In line with the broader DP goal of seeking to uncover how institutions are characterized by specific ‘psychological business’, we show that worry in our data is treated as undermining the legitimacy of seeking this specific welfare service. In other words: speakers collaboratively treat worry-induced calls as problematic. When worry features in calls, its dispositional character (in terms of the speaker coming off as ‘the worrying kind’) tends to be downplayed and worry is instead linked to a lack of knowledge, building the worry as warranted (or not) and as warranting further institutional activity (or not). In this sense, speakers treat worry as rationally, morally, and institutionally constrained. The ways in which the results differ from previous discursive research on worry in institutional settings serve to emphasize that emotion is locally accomplished and thus part of how the institution at hand is constituted.
Care(ful) Relationships: Supporting Children in Secure Care
University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Children enter secure accommodation under two types of orders, while approximately half are placed on remand or sentenced for committing a serious offence, the other half are placed by social services under a child welfare order. Though sentenced under different orders, children in secure care are perceived as the ‘most vulnerable’ and in need of intense support. Hence, secure units tend to be small, with a high ratio of staff to young people. With vulnerable young people separated from their families and friends, secure accommodation becomes an enclosed hotbed of emotions where everyday life is played out against a backdrop of heightened reactions and intense relationships. Since placements aim to provide a safe environment in which young people are enabled to address personal difficulties and subsequently move on to a ‘better life’, staff are charged with creating safe and supportive environments to aid this transition. Relationships formed between staff and young people are the therapy and are therefore engineered to elicit particular changes in young people’s behaviour and outlook. Drawing on findings from sensitive ethnographic fieldwork, this paper considers the emotional experiences of carers who are expected to deliver life changing and coercive care to vulnerable young people with complex needs.
Messing with the Emotions of the Other: Exploring Affective Intergenerational Encounters at a Residential Care Institution for Young People
Roskilde University, Denmark
In this presentation, I examine the lived ambivalence, between support and control that arises in care work. I do so through an analysis of the spatialised entanglements of emotions, age and formal position in intergenerational encounters at a residence for young people suffering from social and mental distress. By identifying the dominant norms associated with the roles of ‘resident’ and ‘professional in the social space of the residence’, I explore what may, drawing on Haraway, be termed popular, oppositional and inappropriate practices and the emotions and power relations linked to them. The analysis reveals how the three types of practices – all framed by neoliberal youth policies and psy-knowledge about age, (ab)normal personalities and ‘professionalism’ as spatialised in the institutional organisation of work and the physical space as well as rules, norms, and routines - represent very diverse ways of navigating. Moreover it demonstrates, how ‘messing with other people’s emotions’ and trying to change their behavior is regarded as manipulation if it challenges norms or power relations rooted in spatially anchored perceptions of appropriate practices, but as empowerment if it chimes with norms that correspond to the roles and intersecting binary constructions of childish/young/insane client – adult professional.