'There are no good kids here': Girls' Experiences of Secure Accommodation





In 2010 two hundred and sixty children entered secure accommodation. Of these, fifty-one percent were placed because they were on remand or sentenced after being found guilty of committing a serious offence. The other thirty-seven percent were placed by social services for their own protection under a child welfare order. This means that secure accommodation is used to simultaneously hold children sentenced for punishment with those who are 'saved' from tragedy by welfare professionals. This research explores girls' everyday experiences of secure accommodation by centralising the view of young people as social actors able to play a key role in defining their own experiences. It does so by building on theories around discipline and confinement to consider secure accommodation as an emotional space designed specifically to reform and re-educate children.

Taking secure accommodation as a unique social space, this thesis employs the sociology of emotion to explore the social architecture between the adults working as paid carers and the children for whom they receive money to both care for and control. In order to consider the nature of these relationships, this thesis explores the status of 'child' within the unit and the social significance of childhood in the context of a society which binds age with competency.



Reference: Ellis, K. (2012). 'There are no good kids here': Girls' experiences of secure accommodation. PhD Thesis. Sheffield: University of Sheffield




Well-constructed doctoral research is a joy to read; this is no exception. The author makes an important and under-researched context of study come to theoretical life, applying a critical framework that combines the work of some sociological giants (Goffman and Foucault and it has to be said, the underused 'emotional' work of Arlie Hochschild).

The methodology is an ethnography/researcher as outsider and methods are naturalistic observation with some conversations with a purpose, and as such the thesis affords depth and detail to an under-researched social environment. There are too few studies like this in our view - although we confess some leanings toward symbolic interactionism ourselves. 

The literature review is very helpful for an understanding of childrens' entry into the juvenile secure estate, the cluster concepts around socialisation, role expectations, gender and identities in this environment. 



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In the UK, a PhD stands for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, sometimes referred to as a ‘doctorate’. It is the highest level of degree that a student can achieve. At some institutions, a Doctor of Philosophy is known as a DPhil. It is distinct from professional doctorates such as EdD (Doctor of Education).

A PhD usually culminates in a thesis of around 80,000-100,000 words, based on research carried out over the course of the research study. The research must be original and aim to create new knowledge or theories in their specialist area, or build on existing knowledge or theories in novel ways. 

A doctoral thesis in the social sciences will normally have a comprehensive literature review of the specific research area, in addition to a particular theoretical focus (a conceptual framework) sometimes even where two more sets of theories overlap (intersect). The research is 'supervised' normally by two experienced academics and examined by another two experienced academics who are experts in the field of study, one of who is external to the awarding University.



Download this file (Ellis_2012.pdf)Ellis_2012.pdf[Ellis, K. (2012). 'There are no good kids here': Girls' Experiences of Secure Accommodation. PhD Thesis. Sheffield: University of Sheffield]16705 kB
Download this file (bcv114.pdf)bcv114.pdf[Ellis, K H. (2016) ‘He's got some nasty impression of me he has’: Listening to Children in the Secure Estate, The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 46, Issue 6, September 2016, Pages 1553–1567, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcv114]197 kB

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