General practitioners' narrative discourse on domestic violence : a sociolinguistic study
This doctoral thesis is founded on the sociolinguistic tradition of applying linguistic knowledge to social issues on the one hand, and the study of narrative on the other. The problem under investigation is general practitioners' narrative discourse on domestic violence. More precisely, this thesis: 1. analyses the discursive strategies GPs apply in interviews when they talk about their experiences with victims; 2. states what these strategies reveal about GPs' perceptions of and attitudes towards domestic violence; 3. demonstrates what this indicates with regard to the construction of medical knowledge about the issue; 4. identifies the problems the GPs' discursive practices might reveal and also engender for their daily work; 5. offers solutions from within the narrative framework as part of a larger endeavour to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. The data for this study were generated in twenty in-depth interviews with GPs in the City of Aberdeen in 2000. The linguistic features analysed include: evaluative devices, modalities, metaphors, thematic roles, passive constructions and spatio-temporal language. The analyses show that GPs often blur notions of agency and thus contribute to an indirect form of victim-blaming. A strategy of distancing is revealed which reconstructs patients as the 'deviant other'. At the same time, GPs express their anxieties about dealing with domestic violence. Furthermore, GPs locate and discuss the issue mainly within social rather than medical frameworks, and their discourse proves problematic as it is largely informed by common cultural myths which further stigmatise women who suffer abuse. GPs' "storied knowledge" is shown to be mainly constituted by extra-ordinary cases, which leads to a biased picture and may prove detrimental in GPs' daily practice work. Since the data identify a lack of adequate training on the issue currently offered to British GPs, the thesis finally proposes possible solutions in the form of a narrative teaching module on domestic violence.