This is the first study in a long-term qualitative, theory generating, research project aimed at uncovering conditions that facilitate development of destructive psychological processes in care organizations. Special focus was put on three previously identified problem areas, i.e., staff privileges, conflicting educational traditions/cultures among staff, and psychological reparative work on the part of the staff. A special approved home for teenage boys with serious psychosocial, drug and criminal problems was studied. The strategy used was grounded theory together with abductive reasoning. Data were collected using institutional documents, questionnaires and individual psychotherapeutic interviews. In spite of a target group with serious psychosocial problems, strong institutional boundaries, and staff without professional training in caring, no destructive processes strong enough to obstruct care were found in this institution. The purposed explanation is that the combined effect of history, institutional structure and routines, and psychological conditions has prevented destructive processes from developing. When attention is paid to these conditions, they may be deliberately used as "planned barriers", protecting against destructive psychological institutional processes.


Residential Institutions, Criminal and Drug Problems, Youth Care, Psychological Processes in Institutions, Grounded Theory, Unexpected Results, Planned Barriers


The author would like to thank The National Board of Institutional Care in Sweden for financial grants.

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