Playing the 'Blame Game': Accounting and the construction of disruptive behaviour in family interviews
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Systemic conceptualisations suggest that family processes which involve blaming and holding the child accountable for their behaviour play an important role in the maintenance of disruptive behaviour problems. Discourse analytic work in family therapy settings has shown that accountability for the family’s reported problems is a key concern for family members. This study used a conversation analytic (CA) approach to examine family members’ accounts of child disruptive behaviour. The two participating families were both engaged in family therapy for disruptive behaviour problems. Each family participated in a family interview which was recorded and transcribed according to CA principles. The analysis focused on the discursive organisation of accounts, as well as how these accounts were constructed to actively manage accountability during the interviews. Accounts were organised into a threepart structure consisting of a ‘statement of causality’, ‘warrant’ and ‘formulation’. Three strategies for managing accountability were identified: ‘objectifying’, ‘normalising’ and ‘systematic vagueness’. The analytic findings are discussed in terms of their relevance to systemic theory and practice.
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