Flexibel fyrkantighet möter meningslös skötsamhet

– tidens betydelse för interaktionen i institutionsvård


  • Lina Ponnert
  • Kerstin Svensson




Institutional care, interaction, time, youth care, total institution, institutionsvård, interaktion, tid, ungdomsvård


Every year, over 1,000 children and young people, between the ages of 8 and 20, are placed in special youth homes in Sweden due to criminality, substance abuse or ”other socially destructive behaviour”. This article is based on interviews with youth and staff about what happens at the institution and how they regard the purpose of the stay in a facility that has the character of a total institution, in Goffman’s understanding. With support in Adam’s theories about time rhythms and Abbott’s concepts of time/event, we analyze how staff and youth cooperate in creating institutional life where they share the space, while having distance from each other and avoid creating closeness as their interaction is limited in time. Due to several parallel time rhythms affecting their everyday life and time at the institution the young people develop an approach between resisting or developing what can be termed as ”meaningless diligence”. Everyday life becomes easier to manage if they follow what the staff say, but they cannot see that it leads to a better future. The staff describe an approach where they are careful both to follow rules and to make constant individual and situational exceptions, a ”flexible rigidity” to fixed rules and time-schedules, to deal with specific events and needs. Together they maintain institutional life and the young people are adapted to the situation here and now, not to the life outside or after the institution.





Ponnert, L., & Svensson, K. (2023). Flexibel fyrkantighet möter meningslös skötsamhet: – tidens betydelse för interaktionen i institutionsvård. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Kriminalvidenskab, 110(3), 351–367. https://doi.org/10.7146/ntfk.v110i3.141476

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