The early and later-life care experiences of individuals using short-term homeless services: an attachment-informed interpretative phenomenological analysis

Lara Howe, Ben Grey, Paul Dickerson

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PurposeThis paper aims to explore the care experiences of individuals using short-term homeless services in the UK, who identify as being neglected in childhood. The study endeavours to give voice to the subjective experiences of homeless individuals in these specific domains and optimise therapeutic and housing services provided to individuals from this sub-population.Design/methodology/approachSemi-structured interviews containing elements of the “Adult Attachment Interview” (AAI) were conducted with eight individuals who had experienced childhood neglect and used short-term homeless services in adulthood. Interviews were analysed using an attachment informed version of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (AI-IPA).FindingsAnalysis parsed participants’ data into four master themes: “Everything was wrecking all the time”: Unsafe spaces; “Kind of pretending I was […] dead”: Strategies for survival; “My mum didn’t believe me”: Traumatic self-shaping; and “My first reckoning with self”: Restoration & Recovery. Together, themes indicated that participants had undergone traumatic early and later-life care experiences but were engaged in idiosyncratic recovery journeys. The meanings that participants derived from their past experiences of neglect were nuanced and interacted with their current relationships in complex and highly personal ways.Originality/valueBy applying an innovative methodology to a predominantly unchartered empirical area, this project extends existing research and presents a meaningful set of results. Implications for the delivery of short-term homeless services and therapeutic practitioners are discussed.

© 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited. This is an author produced version of a paper published in MENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL INCLUSION uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMental Health and Social Inclusion
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2022


  • Attachment
  • Homelessness
  • Neglect
  • Adverse Childhood experiences
  • Counselling Psychology

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