Locked up girls - an ethnographic study of girls doing gender in secure unit care

Project leader

Funding source

Forte - Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2015
End date: 31/12/2017
Funding: 2010000 SEK


In Sweden secure units with far-reaching disciplinary powers have the task of educating, treating, handling and controlling young people with extensive behavioural problems. This kind of residential care is a heavily institutionalized way of dealing with problematic youth. Reasons for placement are often criminality and with crime being more common among boys, a majority of the young people are boys. However, approximately a third of the young people in secure unit care are girls, a higher proportion compared to similar residential settings in other countries. In other words, Swedish girls are handled in a policing system even though their problems more often concern other areas than criminality. A substantial share of girls placed in secure unit care report mental health problems. In that way, the depiction of the girls’ problems differs from what the secure units are traditionally organized to handle and treat. In other words, this can be understood as a conflict between feminine coded problems and a masculine coded form of care. The aim of the research project is with a gender perspective examine how the girls handle their time in care in the light of this conflict. In particular I am interested in the girls’ own understandings, experiences, actions and attitudes concerning their situation and the residential environment, with a special focus on how this can be understood in relation to the girls’ doing of gender. The study is ethnographic and I will carry out participating observations as well as both group and individual interviews. A pilot study has been carried out where girls were interviewed about their own understandings of the events leading up to a secure unit placement. Also, within the scope of the pilot study interviews with social workers have been carried out. In these interviews the social workers were asked to elaborate on their reasoning regarding referring girls with mental health problems to secure unit care.

Last updated on 2017-22-03 at 07:13