Psykisk ohälsa, utsatthet och en legitimerande oro – diskursiva förståelser av flickor som placeras vid särskilda ungdomshem

  • Maria Andersson Vogel


State-run secure accommodation has a double public function, which places it in the borderland between welfare and legal systems. However, girls in these facilities seldom show criminal beha- viour but often report severe mental health problems. Given this, it has been questioned whether this form of care is suitable for these girls. This article aims to investigate discourses about girls and secure care as they are manifested in interviews with social workers. The interviews are analysed as conversations, and therefore feature the researcher in the material. The analysis is inspired by Laclau and Mouffe’s Discourse Theory. The results show that a gendered dichotomy dominates the discourse about girls in contact with social services. Girls are constructed, in relation to boys, by concepts of mental health and vulnerability. This discourse is somewhat destabilized by the suburban girl who simultaneously is given meaning by discourses about the suburbs and their inhabitants as ”the Others”. Further, there seems to be a discursive battle concerning girls placed in secure care, who are constructed both as vulnerable girls and as antisocial in terms that tie them to the constructions of boys. Central to this battle is the social workers’ great concern over the girls’ actions and their consequences. The secure accommodation is discursively constructed on one hand as an institution imbued with meaning of being a horrible place, and on the other hand as a function with the possibility to stop, hold and protect. By emphasizing the connection between the social workers’ concern and the secure accommodation as a holding and protecting function, referring a girl discursively constructed as a vulnerable victim to this locked and discipli- ning form of care is legitimized.