Doctoral Dissertation

7.8.2018: 'I need your eyes to see myself'. On the inclusion of dialogues and an otherness of the other into psychology and clinical work explored through studies of contexts where children live with violence in close relationships (Flåm)


31.8.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Mattilanniemi , Agora, Auditorio 3
Cand.Psychol./PsyD Anna Flåm defends her doctoral dissertation in Psychology "'I need your eyes to see myself'. On the inclusion of dialogues and an otherness of the other into psychology and clinical work explored through studies of contexts where children live with violence in close relationships".

Opponent Professor Peter Rober (University of Leuven, Belgium) and Custos Professor Juha Holma (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Violence in close relationships with children raises intriguing questions for our society. The sense making may go on in a fragile balance between possible falseaccusations and possible neglect of needed concerns. The present study explores contexts where such concerns are at stake.

From the vantage point of outlining main contributors towards a dialogical understanding of human meaning making, the study explores how meaning making evolves when issues of child sexual abuse, violence, and maltreatment are at the agenda.

Three naturalistic practice arenas are explored containing cases with violence in close relationships with children. Violence pertains to child sexualabuse, violence, and maltreatment. Close relationships pertains to violence inside the family or closely connected network and relationships.

The studies enter three divergent, naturalistic contexts: First, a setting containing questions of child sexual abuse as activated inside ordinary daily living amongst children and their non-abusive caregivers. Second, a setting of therapeutic services from a public family protection service for families with children and violence. Third, a setting with regular case consultation services as delivered from a multi-agency, cross-professional team to agencies working in cases of child sexual abuse, violence, and maltreatment. All contexts are from ordinary services inside Norwegian public agencies for children and their families, where questions of violence, abuse, and maltreatment towards children are part of the daily service delivery.

A common focus goes across the three studies of how contexts where children live with violence in close relationships, can be explored from within and what they can tell about contingences for human understanding and meaning making. More especially, it is asked: How are partakers with asymmetrical shares, divergent authority of voices, and shareholders with unequal vulnerability of being seen and heard, brought into shared exploration and knowledge in such cases? How do issues of trust, responsibility, and authority enter in such meetings?

When starting the exploration of the questions raised in the three studies, one question was raised: Does it suffice to pre-suppose a Cartesian assumption that things in the world and in the mind have a prior existence to processes, that “things” exist, and interactions are secondary? Does, rather, knowledge – such as about violence in close relationships with children – hinge upon dialogical processes to be generated?

Together the studies illuminate the fine-tuned, dialogical meaning making processes that are in operation in contexts where children live with violence in close relationships. The studies outline an understanding of sense and meaning making as dialogically embedded and embodied.

What particularly stands out are the contingency for dialogues constituted by tensions, of space and time, of having a different voice, of trust, risk and vulnerability, and of ethics intertwined inside each encounter. These are contingences interwoven into generating dialogical processes among involved and stand out as constitutive for the meaning making that evolves.

By turning the attention towards what kinds and in what ways such micro-webs of situated, dialogical processes are constitutive for what meaning is made possible inside an encounter, the studies illustrate the importance and challenges of a dialogical understanding of human sense and meaning making.

By so doing, it connects to the contributions from the dialogical theoreticians and scholars outlined as a vantage point from which to explore. In accordance with their contributions, the studies offer a departure from looking for meaning from an individual thinking position accumulating knowledge from outside. It advocates a knowledge position from within situated encounters, with combined ethical and epistemological consequences for the meaning to emerge among involved persons.

By shifting the focus from looking for centers of influence at work hidden inside individuals which can be expressed in rules, systems, and principles from an outside thinking position, the studies turn the attention onto the fine-tuned, dialogical processes that are constitutive for the sense and meaning making going on between partakers within concrete contexts.

As illustrated by the three studies, without considering the importance of the actual encounter between involved participants, a knowledge collected from outside may lead one-sidedly and astray from the inclusion of the sense and meaning making of the other.

Comprehensively, a dialogical turn makes it possible to realize how intricate it may be to differentiate and understand when child sexual abuse, violence, and maltreatment occur. Subsequently, it calls for holding an open stance and a responsive attunement for meaning making and needed alternatives to emerge. Support offers need to address not only strengthening children and involved persons to tell, but also for caregivers, confidants, professionals, and researchers to take into account the necessity of a dialogically oriented attunement and responsibility for the telling to occur, for the hearing to take place, and for needed knowledge and alternatives to be worked out.

Publication: JYU Dissertations, number 7, ISSN 2489-9003, ISBN 978-951-39-7523-4 PDF, http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-39-7523-4

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Anna Flåm