Insights into structurally identical experiences of residential care alumni: The paradox of becoming autonomous in a residential care facility
In this study, which is part of my PhD thesis project, I used the documentary method of interpretation to analyze a discourse on the prospect of leaving care and living autonomously that emerged from group discussions among youth living in a residential setting in Alto Adige [South Tyrol], Italy. The documentary method of interpretation not only examines the explicitly expressed contents of the discourse, but also reconstructs the young person’s implicit, or atheoretical, knowledge underlying and orienting habitualized social action. The method focuses on group-based social patterns that, when applied in care-leaver research, give valuable insights into structurally identical experiences young people in institutions of residential care share that concern the normative educational goal and expected learning outcome of autonomy. The analysis of the group discussions suggests that becoming autonomous in a residential institution is, from the perspective of the young people, a paradoxical arrangement with compulsory character, and that they have developed group-specific patterns and strategies to manage it. This article will present those social patterns and strategies. An understanding of the influence of the paradox is necessary if we are to improve outcomes of the social pedagogical treatment model in residential care settings and thus improve the life chances of residential care alumni and the experience of leaving care for young adults.
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