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Learning Disabled Women on Locked Wards : Living at the Intersection of Gender, Disability and Deviance.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2015
Number of pages242
Awarding Institution
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
Electronic ISBNs9780438571587
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis explores the lives of women with learning disabilities who live in a secure unit in the North of England. It focuses on empirical data gained through ethnographic research in the Unit, which encompasses participant observation on three wards and formal interviews with service-users and staff. The theoretical framework draws on ideas in Disability Studies associated with the social model of disability and feminist methodology, which privileges accessing the voices of women and marginalised groups. The study explores how women came to be at the unit and their experiences of day-to-day life as played out through relationships with staff and other service-users. Regulation and power on the unit are explored through women's and staff accounts and fieldnotes about institutional responses to behaviour perceived as 'difficult'. Findings suggest that overt and covert attempts to regulate women's behaviour are ever present, but do not always work, and that institutional responses are at risk of replicating women's bad experiences from the past. Stories by and about women suggest that women's aggression is seen by staff as pathological, and that women are constructed as manipulative and complex in their interpersonal approaches. The women in the study valued relationships with staff and peers but these were treated ambivalently in the service. I argue that women are not 'docile bodies' in the Foucauldian sense, but shape their own identity and futures, sometimes by resisting the norms expected of them within allowed limits and sometimes by transgressing the rules. Women had clear ideas about their future, and how to progress through the service. This thesis challenges normative and institutional accounts of gender, learning disability and deviance, exploring alternative possibilities articulated by women on locked wards.

Bibliographic note

Thesis (Ph.D.)--Lancaster University (United Kingdom), 2015.