Telling people what to do (and, sometimes, why): contingency, entitlement and explanation in staff requests to adults with intellectual impairments

2014-06-19T13:48:21Z (GMT) by Charles Antaki A Kent
How do support staff resolve the interactional dilemma of getting their clients to do things, while respecting their independence? In a corpus of over 200 everyday requests made by residential home staff to adults with an intellectual impairment, the staff tended to use formats which claimed high entitlement to be obeyed, and made little acknowledgement of the contingencies facing their interlocutors. Bald imperatives were overwhelmingly the most common format used. The findings suggest that staff resolve the dilemma of care and control mostly in favour of getting jobs done, at the expense of residents' potential trouble in fulfilling their requests. In the rare cases where requests were accompanied by explanations, these legitimised the staff member's entitlement, or showed their awareness of the contingencies that could affect the resident's response: this provides useful evidence of the reality of these categories to the participants. We discuss three factors that might influence the degree of directiveness in the request: the physical immediacy of the action; a prior fault; and an obligation of the requester to instruct and socialise. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.