Opponent är: Professor emeritus Anders Bruhn, Örebro universitet
Huvudhandledare: Professor Carolina Överlien
Biträdande handledare: Professor Marie Sallnäs

Akademisk avhandling för avläggande av filosofie doktorsexamen i socialt arbete vid
Stockholms universitet som offentligen kommer att försvaras fredagen den 29 januari 2021
kl. 13.00 i Aula Magna, Frescativägen 6, Stockholm (för inbjudna), övrigt deltagande sker via
Zoom. Länk kommer publiceras här ca en vecka före disputationsdagen.

Abstract

Threats, violence and emotional work at special youth institutions. Staff narratives
The aim of this dissertation is to describe how staff working at secure units define violence, the ways in which they say violence affects them emotionally, and the ways they emotionally handle violence. The secure units (särskilda ungdomshem) are managed by the Swedish National Board of Institutional care (Statens Institutionsstyrlese, SiS). The daily work of staff members is often described in terms of various dilemmas, challenges and tensions. Staff work in a context where they are at the intersection between care and punishment. How they respond to these dilemmas, challenges and tensions can affect how they handle violence. The organization (i.e. the institution) requires staff to induce or suppress emotions in order to sustain outward attitudes that produce a proper state of mind. Therefore, secure units are defined as an emotional place for both youth and staff.

The dissertation consists of four articles that explore different forms and directions of violence in the daily work of staff, and the ways that staff describe the impact of violence on their professional and private lives. The empirical data consist of 53 individual staff interviews (articles 1–3) and five focus groups with 27 staff members (article 4). Three overarching theoretical concepts are deployed: emotional work, narrative and violence.

The main findings from these papers can be summarized as follows: Staff talked about the extent and forms of violence that characterize their everyday work (articles 1 and 4), mostly in the form of stories where they described being exposed to both psychological and material violence. The frequency of this violence ranged from occasional to daily. Staff also talked about how they emotionally handled both perceived and acted-out violence, and how such violence can affect their
professional role (articles 2 and 3). A common strategy seems to be role-taking. That is, staff members think they are exposed to violence in their role as “staff”, not as private individuals. This paves the way for the normalization of violence as a strategy for dealing with everyday professional life. Furthermore, staff attribute violence to youth in an explicit way. This means that staff members find it difficult to reflect on their own responsibility and the fact that they are, in fact, cocreators
of most incidents of violence.

The overall results of the four papers are additionally organized  around three themes: (1) the position of the young person: perpetrator, (2) working with violence in a caring context and (3) prohibited workplace emotions. Traces of these themes can be found in all four articles and they are clearly linked to the dissertation’s theoretical concepts. In conclusion, it is possible to describe these three themes as an expression of organizational shortcomings in which the staff are trapped.

Keywords: Youth institution, Staff perspective, Violence, Emotional work, Feeling rules, Narrative.
Stockholm 2021

http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:su:diva-186570
ISBN 978-91-7911-372-8
ISBN 978-91-7911-373-5
ISSN 0281-6288