Punishing trauma: narratives, desistance and recovery

Anderson, Sarah Elizabeth (2019) Punishing trauma: narratives, desistance and recovery. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3351267


Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between two psychosocial processes of change: recovery from trauma and desistance from offending. The research focused on the narratives told by men who had faced multiple problems (substance use, homelessness, poor mental health and offending) as they tried to move on from crime and trauma.

Method: The research employed a constructivist approach to trauma and a realist social constructionist approach to desistance and recovery. The approach involved a traditional life-history method adapted to incorporate the use of participant-created collages, using “collage as inquiry” (Butler-Kisber, 2010). The study gathered narratives from 16 men across Scotland and England, with 11 taking part in a series of art workshops and life history interviews, and 5 taking part in life history interviews only. The transcribed narratives were supplemented by rich description of visual data. The analysis attended to why the story was told and depicted one way and not another, contrasting the “story-as-told” with the chronological events in the “lived-life”. From this, pen portraits of the men were developed, compared and contrasted.

Findings: The analysis identified three narrative positions: transformed, trapped, and travelling, illustrated in the thesis through selected case vignettes (developed from the pen portraits). These differed in their experience of change; the extent to which embodied, emotional, relational and symbolic consequences of trauma, substance use or offending played a role in the present; and feelings about the future. The trapped narratives described being unable to change their lives in important ways, while the transformed narratives described having found opportunities for being different, and being seen differently. These opportunities frequently involved the restoration and reparation of existential, identity and relational losses of trauma. The travelling narratives conveyed an ongoing embodied experiential process, which described being supported and doing things differently in the present, emphasising new activities and (re)connection with others. Together, these narratives suggested that, in the context of trauma and substance use, desistance from crime is an embodied process with experiential, sensory, emotional and non-cognitive aspects, which is achieved in part through active occupation of new socio-situational contexts, as well as through symbolic work in each area.

Contribution of thesis: This research demonstrates the potential of visual methods to gather and represent rich and complex desistance narratives. This research brings into dialogue theories around the psychosocial processes of recovery from trauma and desistance from crime. This research shows the intimate interconnection between desistance and recovery. It suggests that past trauma can help shape current concerns but that experience of trauma and processes of change are influenced by a complex interplay of the person’s past history, their frames of meaning, their embodied experience, and the opportunities and barriers within their socio-situational and wider socio-structural contexts.

Implications: This study suggests that attempts to tackle offending without help to both resolve past trauma and move towards a “better life” yield only a fragile desistance. Additionally, it suggests that criminal justice agencies must urgently attend to the role they play in both frustrating desistance efforts and inflicting harm.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to issues of confidentiality this thesis is not available for viewing.
Keywords: Desistance from crime, trauma, psychological trauma, recovery, narratives, creative methods, multiple disadvantage, multiple needs, repeat offending, collage.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Supervisor's Name: McNeill, Prof. Fergus and Wyke, Prof. Sally
Date of Award: 2019
Embargo Date: 30 May 2027
Depositing User: Ms Sarah E. Anderson
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-73001
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 May 2019 15:05
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2022 07:33
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.73001
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/73001

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