The production of the 'normal child': exploring co-constructions of parents, children and therapists

Brownlow, Charlotte and Lamont-Mills, Andrea (2015) The production of the 'normal child': exploring co-constructions of parents, children and therapists. In: The Palgrave handbook of child mental health: discourse and conversation studies. Palgrave Macmillan Ltd., United Kingdom, pp. 233-251. ISBN 978-1-137-42830-1


In this chapter we aim to explore how the positions of 'normal' and 'abnormal' child are discursively co-constructed and negotiated between parent, child and therapist in real-life clinical interactions. In doing so we will draw upon data from clinical consultation sessions, where the 'problem' for the child has been identified, and a referral made to the clinician. This chapter focuses on the triadic clinical relationship and how parent, therapist, and child all contribute to these ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ positions. We will situate our work within a framework of discursive psychology, informed by the work of Potter (2012), Potter and Hepburn (2006), Rose (1999, 2008), and Edley (2002).

The chapter will chart the development of shared understandings of what is 'normal' for children, and explore how some productions of 'normality' are more privileged over others. Such privileged accounts of 'normality' will then be interrogated through the detailed analysis of clinical consultation sessions between parents, children and therapists in order to explore the co-construction and negotiation of 'normality', the problematisation of 'abnormality', and the identities invoked through such processes. In addition to an exploration of the co-constructed positions, we will also examine the contested nature of such positioning, as evidenced through resistance by parents, children, and therapists. It is proposed that the discursive devices drawn upon in such exchanges have important implications for the crafting of identities, and the implications of this will be considered within the larger theoretical framework of critical developmental psychology (see for example Burman 2008).

We will conclude our chapter by revisiting the taken-for-granted assumptions surrounding what it means to be 'normal' and consider the positions taken up by and imposed on individuals through such discourse. We will consider the varying levels of power within the triadic clinical relationship, and the techniques drawn on by members in order to resist and endorse particular positions. We argue that the context of clinical consultations are an important place for the exploration of the negotiation of positionings, not least given the ready framework provided by the DSM for abnormality/normality constructions and the problematisation of abnormality that pervades most psychological encounters. Our chapter will highlight the importance of interrogating clinical exchanges in the questioning of hegemonic views of normality.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © 2015 the authors.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Counselling
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2016 03:35
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2016 03:41
Uncontrolled Keywords: conversation analysis; critical discourse analysis; discursive psychology; child psychology; clinical psychology
Fields of Research : 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111710 Health Counselling
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170102 Developmental Psychology and Ageing
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111714 Mental Health
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 92 Health > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920209 Mental Health Services
C Society > 92 Health > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920501 Child Health
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1057/9781137428318_13

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