What’s the problem? Making sense of public issues and private troubles

Greenwood, S. (2019) What’s the problem? Making sense of public issues and private troubles. Sociology Seminar Series, Glasgow, UK, 10th April 2019. (Unpublished)

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Research conducted over the past twenty years has demonstrated the impact of parental ‘problem’ substance use on the lives of young adults (Velleman & Orford, 1999; Bancroft et al, 2004; Järvinen, 2013). Despite this increased awareness, policymakers in the UK and beyond continue to exclude young adults affected by a parent’s drinking or drug use in their definition of ‘affected others’. Consequently, affected young adults find it difficult to access support from public or third sector organisations, leaving them reliant on informal, ‘fragile webs of support’ (Bancroft et al, 2004). This paper uses Bacchi’s (2009) ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be?’ (WPR) model as an analytical lens to explore the discrepancy between public and private definitions of the ‘problem’ of parental substance use for young adults. Whilst Bacchi’s approach was intended to be used for policy analysis, this paper emphasises the transferability of the approach in understanding complex ‘personal troubles’ (Mills, 1990 [1967]; Emerson, 2015). I begin by critically analysing the ways that UK and Scottish Government policy defines the ‘problem’. Following this, I share data gathered via minimally structured interviews with affected young people (aged 16 – 30) to highlight the complex nature of ‘sense making’, that young people engage in. Bacchi’s WPR approach allows the incongruity between public and private problem definitions to become illuminated. It allows us to garner a more fruitful understanding of the barriers to help seeking experienced by this group (Dixon-Woods et al, 2006; Mackenzie et al, 2015) and move beyond the discourse of ‘stigma’ typically attributed to this group. I conclude by arguing for developing a relational approach to understanding the impact of parental substance use on young adults – where both the ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ are defined by those with lived experience.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Greenwood, Dr Sharon
Authors: Greenwood, S.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences

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