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Researching Experiences of Learning Disabled Women on Locked Wards Using Ethnography

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By: Published: 2017 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Health
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Abstract

In 2011, I spent 11 months doing ethnographic fieldwork for my PhD research where I studied three locked wards on a National Health Service forensic unit for women with learning disabilities. I wanted to find out how the service could be improved for women. My aim was to involve the participants in the study and allow them to tell me what was important to them. I found that using ethnography greatly benefited the project, allowing me to spend time with women and staff to explain the project, and to discuss day-to-day events as they happened rather than retrospectively. I found that women’s behavior was extremely regulated and that the institutional responses to “bad” behavior sometimes replicated their bad experiences from the past. Women’s aggression was seen as pathological and they were described as interpersonally manipulative and complex. However, the women had clear ideas about their future and how to progress through the service. This case study explains the process I followed, including the ethical procedures and how I gained access.

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