Suspect Practices: A critical discourse analysis of the legal, ethical, health and social welfare policies and nurse interview texts constituting social and nursing responses to child abuse and neglect in British Columbia, Canada.
Supervisors: Professor Trudy Rudge and Associate Professor Colleen Varcoe
Child abuse and neglect is a critical issue for population health, and despite much effort, an estimated prevalence of one of every ten children persists. Nurses are well placed to identify and address issues of child safety, and long-term visiting by nurses is the only intervention showing promise of prevention. Nurse-led initiatives in this area are rare, and nurses are often caught between legal responsibilities and the relational nature of their work with families.
Against this backdrop, this research aims to explore how social beliefs and value systems about children intersect with child abuse and neglect; analyse how social structures and processes challenge or support the development of useful nursing responses to child abuse and neglect; map obstacles to and possibilities for effectively addressing child abuse and neglect and develop possibilities for nurses to influence social change for children and their future health.
Fairclough’s dialectical-relational approach to critical discourse analysis will be used for this study, because it allows for consideration the multiple influences that have led to and sustain this ‘social wrong’. The conceptualisation of discourse draws on Foucault’s theory, which considers discourse as a ‘social cognition’, or as a way of constructing knowledge and social practice through language.
The specific framework is supported by ideas from Philosophy (where suspicion is explored following Spinoza), Law (where legal obligations are examined), Sociology and Equity Studies (where social positioning of children and tolerance of violence can be understood), and Nursing (where policies, practices and nurses’ perspectives are captured). Data collection requires compilation of a ‘corpus’ of discourse samples (texts) that represent the practice. The analysis includes three layers: texts are first coded in broad discursive terms; an analysis of a subset of specific excerpts of text using systematic functional linguistics; and lastly, the social matrix of the discourses, and ideological and political effects of the discourse will be examined.
This approach (unlike objectivist traditions) supports a research agenda that has a specific interest in and orientation toward social justice,and the production of knowledge as a resource for both understanding and shaping nursing practice within the struggle towards addressing inequities produced in or entrenched by practice