Social Policy and Society

Themed Section on ‘Harm’, ‘Abuse’, Agency and Resilience Across the Lifespan

Abusive Interactions: Research in Locked Wards for People with Dementia

Fiona Kellya1

a1 Dementia Services Development Centre, University of Stirling E-mail:


This paper reports on a study in which unique access to three locked psycho-geriatric wards of a hospital allowed ethnographic exploration into everyday social worlds of fourteen people with dementia. Findings indicate abusive practice in the wards and show that participants in receipt of such practice responded with self-defence and resistance, but ultimately were defeated. In a development of Sabat's (2001) Selfs 1–3 framework, I identify how abusive practice arose due to staffs' inability to recognise different aspects of patients' self. Recommendations for practice include integrating a developed Selfs 1–3 framework into staff training and evaluating its impact on practice.