"They’re only as real as the intent of the people that are in them"

: Foucauldian narrative analysis of the discursive complexities of familial estrangement

  • Tamara Vaughan

Student thesis: PsychD

Abstract

Family estrangement is of emergent research interest in psychology and counselling, however, the power laden ways in which the family has been conceptualised historically has made familial estrangement, generally, a marginalised discursive site. Adopting a post-structuralist epistemology, this research explores how the objectification of the family, provides a means through which familial estrangement can be situated and understood. Moreover, its aim is to investigate how language, specifically, is used to construct this psychological experience.
Individual interviews were conducted with eleven participants who were asked to speak directly about their experiences of estrangement from members of their nuclear families. A Foucauldian narrative analysis was then conducted which highlighted the discursive power relations in participants’ accounts. The results suggest also that familial estrangement can be multiply constructed and understood from the protagonist positions of estranger (one who ‘leaves’ the family), estrangee (one who is ‘left’) or an evacuated critical position which problematises the concreteness of these binaries. These diversely constructed accounts appear to position those involved in distinct sets of discursive relations of empowerment or enfeeblement and in so doing, highlight the inherent power in talk and the ways in which individuals might unwittingly become located within their accounts.
These findings are discussed in relation to the topics of the family and family estrangement and in relation to their implication on clinical practice. Additionally, the method and means through which this topic was investigated is critiqued.
Overall, it is argued that this research should raise the awareness of counselling psychologists and other therapeutic practitioners, by demonstrating the normative social regulatory power exhibited by the family over individuals and thereby highlighting the complexities of family membership and the experience of familial estrangement. Moreover, it seeks to illustrate how this power can be critiqued and unsettled.
Date of Award29 Mar 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorPaul Dickerson (Supervisor) & Jean O'Callaghan (Supervisor)

Cite this

"They’re only as real as the intent of the people that are in them": Foucauldian narrative analysis of the discursive complexities of familial estrangement
Vaughan, T. (Author). 29 Mar 2018

Student thesis: PsychD