The grandmother granddaughter conversation examined in this book
makes explicit what the detailed study of interaction reveals about
two social problems--"bulimia" and "grandparent caregiving." For
the first time, systematic attention is given to interactional
activities through which family members display ordinary yet
contradictory concerns about health and illness: * a grandmother's
(who is also a registered nurse) attempts to initiate, confront,
and remedy her granddaughter's lack of responsibility in admitting
bulimic "problems" and committing to professional medical
assistance; * a granddaughter's methods for avoiding ownership of
the alleged bulimic problems by discounting the legitimacy of her
grandmother's expressed concerns. Through analysis of a single
audio-recorded and transcribed conversation, Wayne Beach reveals
the altogether pervasive and often troubled talk surrounding family
medical predicaments. From a careful review of extant theories that
seek to explain eating disorders and grandparent caregiving, it
becomes clear that an overreliance on self-report data has promoted
underspecified understandings of "social contexts" --
conceptualizations void of real time practices and interactional
consequences mirroring how families manage their daily affairs and
understandings regarding health and illness. In contrast, this
volume draws attention to family members' embodied interactional
activities. Here it is seen, for example, how methods for
expressing concern and caring by individuals may nevertheless
eventuate in interactional troubles and problems between family
members. The analysis reveals that, while displays of basic
concerns for others' health and well being are routine occurrences
between family members in home environments -- and of course,
across friendship and various support networks -- even the delicate
and well-intended management of such occasions guarantees neither
agreement on the nature of the alleged "problems" nor,
consequently, a commitment to seek professional help as a means of
remedying a medical condition. In such cases, the very existence of
an illness is itself a matter of some contention to be
interactionally worked out. And it is perhaps both predictable and
symptomatic that those explicitly denying (or as with the
granddaughter, indirectly failing to admit) that problematic health
behaviors exist, also somehow let it be made known that far too
much attention is being given to possibilities and consequences of
illness in the first instance. Implications of this investigation
extend well beyond "bulimia" and "grandparent caregiving" to a vast
array of casual and institutional involvements between family
members, friends, and bureaucratic representatives such as those
involved in long-term caregiving, dealing with cancer and
Alzheimer's disease, or conducting psychiatric interviews and
HIV/AIDS counseling sessions. Findings regarding the
interactionally organized nature of talk about bulimia, as well as
the problematic nature of caregiving, will be of value to
researchers focusing on language and social interaction, health
practitioners, and families alike. This volume includes the full
transcript of the conversation in the case study. A copy of the
audio-recording is available for classroom adoption and/or personal
purchase by contacting: Wayne A. Beach, School of Communication,
San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-4516.
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