Encountering Violence in Social and Health Care Organizations

Encountering Violence in Social and Health Care Organizations
Funded by: Academy of Finland

Mikko Mäntysaari, Professor (project leader)

Marita Husso, University researcher

Tuija Virkki, University researcher

Juha Holma, Lecturer

Aarno Laitila, Professor

Marianne Notko, Post-doctoral researcher


Encountering Violence in Social and Health Care Organizations

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The background of the project is the notion that Finnish welfare state has lacked means to deal with the problem of violence. The social and health care sector could in principle be in a key position in identifying and helping the victims of intimate violence, yet interventions in violent practices are actually rare. Even violence against the employees of the social and health care sectors, which has increased considerably during the past decades, is systematically downplayed. Therefore, we claim that even if the high level of violence is an important problem itself, the most essential problem is the lack of both recognition of the existence of the phenomenon and interventions in it.

We ask (1) What kinds of practices of encountering and intervening in violence exist in the social and health services? (2) How does the vulnerability of human beings figure in the practices of encountering violence in social and health care services? (3) What kinds of possibilities and obstacles there are for more effective violence intervention in the social and health services?

Theoretically, our project differs from many other studies by (1) taking the practices that tie subjects and objects together as a point of departure and (2) taking seriously the usually culturally rejected fact that human beings are fragile and  vulnerable to violence, which means that violent practices always involve power and social suffering. The theoretical toolbox for our study consists of violence studies and organization studies, theories of social practices and views of gendered practices and organizational learning.

The data of the study is both qualitative (interviews and documents) and quantitative (statistics and surveys) and most of it has been gathered already. Cluster (1) is about encountering intimate violence and the obstacles to and possibilities of violence interventions in health care (unique data gathered in the Central Finland health care district). Cluster (2) provides information on violence against employees in social and health care organizations and organizational policies concerning the issue. Cluster (3) provides information on the interrelationships between intimate violence and violence in institutional contexts of the social and health care sectors. In addition to basic quantitative methods, we will use the methods of critical discourse analysis and ethnographic analysis.

Results will have theoretical, methodological and practical implications. The project will develop (1) novel ways of conceptualizing the formation and transformation of organizational practices in the context of violence and (2) a methodological toolbox for studying such challenging objects of research as violating practices, vulnerability and violence. More practically, the empirical findings will (3) provide data and fill gaps in the understanding of violence, vulnerability and violence intervention.