The Rhetoric Case. Persecution strategies in a child care order investigation









Persecution strategies in a child care order investigation ¹





Linda Ärlig

Department of Social Science, the Psychology Section, University of Örebro, Sweden


Translated into English by:

Gillian Thylander, BA, translator and language consultant (Thycon HB)

Janet Vesterlund, MA, translator and language consultant (Ad Hoc HB)

Roger Ponsford, MCIOB, accredited quality assurance assessor

Anna-Stina Ponsford, MCSP, physiotherapist and driving evaluator






The purpose of this study is to make a critical examination of six official reports in an LVU (Care of Young Persons Act) investigation, to detect the possible occurrence of persecution strategies in the social welfare service reports and, in that case, to define the strategies used and examine whether the investigation complies with the legitimate claims of objectivity and impartiality.

In the official reports, fifty-six different persecution strategies appear. Definitions of the strategies found are produced, and their application in the case will be shown in passages from the reports. The main patterns seen in the investigators’ actions are: "Power defines reality," and "influencing and persuading the reader". Two techniques were found in the material, withholding and fabricating, which co-operate to make an investigation defective. The strategies have been divided into six groups depending on their purpose:

  • Persuading the reader through language: contains twelve strategies that the investigators use to try to make the reader come to the same conclusion as themselves.

  • Making the client seem pathological: contains eight strategies that describe the client as peculiar, mentally unstable, aggressive, etc.

  • Ignoring objectivity aspects: contains seventeen strategies such as, for example, ignoring the client’s perspective, suppressing information, exaggerating information, fabulation, irrelevant statements, etc.

  • Exercising power and control: contains six strategies that are all connected with the authorities trying to take control of the client’s life.

  • The authorities know best: comprises five strategies containing blind faith, moralising, self-justification, emphasis on the social authorities’ resources and exceeding the limits of one’s competence.

  • Feel-think-believe-experience-interpret: contains nine strategies that are influenced by the investigators’ subjective interpretations, arguments, etc.

Throughout the investigations, the client’s perspective is ignored and references to sources are missing. My conclusion is that the investigations are defective, and that they violate the Constitution Act, Chap. 1, Para. 9, containing directives concerning objectivity and impartiality. The documentation of the case contains a considerable number of distinct persecution strategies.

Finally, I present eleven hypotheses about why persecution strategies are used. The hypotheses that I think have the most validity are: "The dissonance hypothesis", "The attribution hypothesis" and the "Communication breakdown hypothesis".


Keywords: persecution strategies, objectivity, impartiality, LVU investigation


1Advanced course (41-60p) paper in psychology, autumn 1996;

supervisor Professor Bo Edvardsson




1.                 INTRODUCTION

1.1               Background

1.2               Purpose and definition

1.3               Previous work on persecution strategies

2.                 METHODS

2.1               Selection/presentation

2.2               Approach

2.3               Advantages and disadvantages of the methods


3.1               Factual perspective

3.2               Investigative perspective

3.3               Judicial perspective

3.4               Perspective of the child

4.                 EXPLANATORY THEORIES


5.1               Rhetorical strategy

5.1.1            Insinuating strategy

5.1.2            Positive-negative argumentation strategy

5.1.3            Negative reinforcement strategy

5.1.4            Negative synonym strategy

5.1.5            Repetition strategy

5.1.6            Hammer strategy

5.1.7            Multi-minus strategy

5.1.8            Contrast strategy

5.1.9            Strategy of selective use of words indicating uncertainty

5.1.10          Generalisation strategy

5.1.11          Strategy of making trivial statements in a negative context

5.2               Strategy of making the client seem pathological

5.2.1            Strategy of implying that the client’s criticism stems from the client’s pathological condition

5.2.2            Therapy strategy

5.2.3            Strategy of making the client seem peculiar

5.2.4            Strategy of making the client’s behaviour seem too intense

5.2.5            Strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error

5.2.6            Scapegoat strategy

5.2.7            Strategy of calling attention to non-existent "facts"

5.3               Suppression strategy

5.3.1            Strategy of ignoring the client’s perspective

5.3.2            Strategy of vagueness

5.3.3            Strategy of gradually suppressing details

5.3.4            Strategy of using the impersonal form

5.4               Exaggeration strategy

5.4.1            Quantitative strategy

5.4.2            Fabulation strategy

5.4.3            Strategy of gradual intensification

5.4.4            Lying strategy

5.4.5            Strategy of presenting irrelevant information

5.4.6            Implicit theory strategy

5.4.7            Strategy of exploiting and exaggerating events

5.4.8            Strategy of collecting negative historical events of little or no relevance

5.4.9            Strategy of referring to unspecified others

5.4.10          Presumptive strategy

5.5               Control and power strategy

5.5.1            Provocative strategy

5.5.2            Strategy of trying to accuse the client of lying

5.5.3            Anti-democratic strategy

5.5.4            Strategy of presenting insulting values and comments

5.5.5            Strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions

5.6               The social authorities know best

5.6.1            Strategy of emphasising social authorities’ resources

5.6.2            Strategy of overconfidence in oneself and others

5.6.3            Strategy of exceeding the limits of your competence

5.6.4            Moralising strategy

5.6.5            Strategy of justifying yourself and your actions

5.7               Strategy of stressing one’s own experience

5.7.1            Strategy of making vague references to experiences

5.7.2            Strategy of ascribing an experience to the client

5.7.3            Strategy of ascribing a negative attitude to the client

5.8               Interpretational strategy

5.8.1            Strategy of using strategic interpretation

5.8.2            Strategy of using signs as evidence

5.8.3            Strategy of interpreting everything negatively

5.8.4            Negative prognosis strategy

6.                 DESCRIPTION OF THE CASE

6.1               Actors in the case

6.2               Course of events

7.                 OFFICIAL REPORTS

7.1               Official report 1991-11-28

7.2               Official report 1991-01-31

7.3               Official report 1991-04-08

7.4               Official report 1994-11-29

7.5               Official report 1995-10-23

7.6               Official report 1996-06-14

7.7               Case notes and additional notations

7.8               Testimonials

8.                 FINAL DISCUSSION

8.1               Final analysis of persecution strategies

8.1.1 Variations and similarities in official reports

8.2               Development of a persecutory work approach

8.3               Conclusions







1.1               Background

Every year children and adolescents are taken into custody, thereby being separated from their parents. This is done in accord with the law containing special regulations concerning the care of young persons (LVU – Care of Young Persons Act). According to this same law, society has special responsibility for children and adolescents.

The social welfare committee can offer parents and children support and help on a voluntary basis according to the Social Services Act (SoL). LVU, which applies to care without consent, acts as a supplement to SoL. Both placements according to SoL and LVU should, in the opinion of the Swedish Board of Social Welfare (SoS), "as far as possible, be for limited periods of time and focused on treatment, with reunion as the objective." (SoS report 1990:24). Any decision concerning care according to LVU is a strong emotional experience for the child and the parents. It implies limitations of the parents’ right of decision concerning the child. For this reason, it is extremely important that no mistakes are made on the part of the social welfare committee.

An investigation that forms the basis of an LVU decision must be objective, impartial and worked through in accordance with the true facts. This is founded on the Constitution Act, Chap. 1, Para. 9. Taking a child into care can affect the investigator emotionally. So as not to affect the investigator’s personal involvement or disturb the work, it is necessary that the work should follow certain rules. Investigation work should proceed with a critical-objective method, in which a number of basic criteria must be met. Examples of such criteria area: clarity, posing questions, relevant information, account of sources, precision, avoidance of emotional language, ethical considerations for the protection of private persons etc. (cf. Edvardsson, 1996).

When these criteria are not observed, partial investigations lacking in objectivity may arise, which are characterised by the fabrication of evidence with the intention of influencing and persuading the reader and supporting the investigator’s own purposes. Defective investigations can lead to wrong or unsuitable decisions being reached that destroy the future of the family.


1.2               Purpose and definition

The purpose of this paper is to critically examine six official reports in an LVU case, to investigate any occurrence of persecution strategies in its handling and, if so, to define and investigate them, as well seeing whether the matter meets the requirements of objectivity and impartiality prescribed by the Constitution Act, Chap. 1, Para. 9.

I use the definition of the concept persecution strategies by Edvardsson (1996, p. 173): "patterns of thinking and behaviour directed against persons and groups, which on the basis of the fundamental values concerning democracy, legal security, objectivity, self-determination, humanity and not causing physical/mental injury, can be considered as unacceptable."

I also call attention to the definition of the concept of persecution strategies further developed by Jäderquist et al. (1994, p.2): "that it can to a certain extent be a conscious way of behaviour when one has a motive, e.g. custody, control, power, reprisals or other motive. One does work that is steered by the objective, which is nourished on conflicts. The lack of objectivity depends not only on ignorance, lapses, giving one’s imagination free rein, good faith and so on, but there are one or more reasons for being partial."


1.3               Previous work on persecution strategies

Previous research shows that persecution strategies are to be found in therapeutic and social work (see, for example, Edvardsson, 1989).

In his study of 352 cases of children taken into care, Hollander 81985) found that the investigations consisted of large amounts of material. On the whole, the material was dominated by negative information and by information from various authorities. In nearly all cases, the investigations had the character of arguments for taking into care, and that the mass of negative facts about the family and the child was large. References of a positive nature were often missing or were judged to be of no importance. Medical certificates and references from child psychiatric experts were included in most cases and were of central importance.

Edvardsson (1989) studied persecution strategies in a care case in social and psychiatric work. A considerable number of different persecution strategies was revealed. Edvardsson found that the investigator, on non-objective and vague grounds, ascribed the client addiction problems and aggressive behaviour and made the client seem pathological. He also found fundamental and systematic defects, such as ignoring the client's resources and perspective.

In their examination of the "Daniel Case", Junttila et al. (1994) found that some fifteen persecution strategies existed. Some strategies were more obvious than others, for instance the scapegoat strategy, that the investigator makes the mother appear as the cause of the problem and even of the failure of the authorities in helping the mother and son. It was revealed that negative material from the past was often used, and also a negative selection strategy, that the investigator had mainly chosen to use negative information about the mother. It was also shown that the client perspective was ignored, and that assessment exceeding the competence of the authority were made.

When analysing an investigation concerning care according to LVU, Jäderquist et al. (1994) found two main features among twenty-odd strategies. One was to emphasise the knowledge/know-how/competence of the authorities. That it is the reality of the authorities that applies, frequently on the basis of trivial signs. The other main feature was to get the mother to appear as an incompetent parent. The authors of the paper believe that the authorities provoke situations and events in various ways. The provocation makes the client behave in various ways that are then used against him or her.

Gunnarsson et al. (1995) have critically examined twelve LVU investigations and compared them. This was done to see whether they complied with the intentions of the Social Services Act (SoL), Administrative Law and met the requirements of the Swedish Constitution concerning objectivity and impartiality. The results showed that similar defects existed in all the investigations.

Jansson and Rönnbäck (1995) found 42 persecution strategies when they critically examined an investigation that formed the basis of taking into care according to LVU. The following main features of the behavioural pattern stood out:

  • The authority knows best

  • Blackening the names of the parents

  • Making children and parents to appear in need of care

  • Pushing through and sticking to decisions that have been made

  • Disregarding laws and regulations

  • Destroying relations of importance to the family

  • Influencing the reader

  • Disregarding elementary aspects of objectivity

Throughout the material the client perspective was ignored, negative material was emphasised and positive material withheld.

Stenberg (1995) found 18 persecution strategies used against the client in his critical examination of an LVU investigation. The most common strategy she found was ignoring the perspective of the client. The author is of the opinion that the occurrence of inadequate investigations is a result of a collapse of communication between the client and the authorities, anxiety on the part of the investigator, and of the fact that the phenomenon "group think" exists within the social welfare authority.

In his critical examination of an LVU case, Rönnbäck (1996) found 92 persecution strategies/patterns of behaviour. The author found that the investigations were characterised by massive depreciation of the father, no raising of questions, no analyses of resources, no hypothetical thinking, fixation on a single care alternative, etc. Rönnbäck divided the strategies into eight main features, as follows: The authority knows best: Blackening the name of the parents; Getting the children and parents to appear in need of care; Abuse of power; Ignoring laws and regulations; Psychological maltreatment of children; Destruction of important relationships; Influencing the reader; and Ignoring elementary aspects of objectivity.

In another examination of an LVU case, Skog (1996) found 10 persecution strategies. The predominant strategy was that the authorities defined reality. He divided the various strategies used of maintain the position of power into three groups. These are:

  • "The reinforcement of the authority", which comprises strategies used to emphasise the authority’s definition of reality as correct and well-founded.

  • "Withholding". By withholding important facts, the negative information about the client is given the status of evidence.

  • "Fabrication". To emphasise that the authority knows best, data are fabricated by means of various persecution strategies.

Eriksson and Wiesel (1997) made a study of how attributes are used in social work of a persecuting nature. They found that attributes, persecution strategies and the theory about monster parents interact in three main ways. The authors believe that attributes are used to create monster parents and that persecution strategies are used against the monster parents. The attributes are used as tools in persecution strategies.



  1. Selection/presentation

I have chosen to examine a case from a social welfare authority concerning a care order according to LVU. Through my supervisor, I came into contact with a lawyer whose client is a single mother. Her child was taken into care according to LVU para. 6. Both the client and the lawyer gave their permission for the matter to be examined.

The case was initiated on October 29, 1990 and is still pending. The material used consists of official reports, notes/memoranda on social welfare service documents, judicial decisions, appeals against judicial decisions, medical opinions, certificates, social welfare case records, minutes of meetings, diverse letters from, for example, medical consultants, psychologists, lawyers, representatives, the client herself, and so on.

I have critically examined six official reports including appendices concerning the application for care according to LVU Para. 6, declarations to the Administrative Court of Appeal, considerations concerning regulation of the right of access, and the client’s request that custody should be discontinued.

I have concentrated on examining the investigations of the social welfare services, but also refer to appendices when necessary.

First of all, the definitions of the persecution strategies found are presented. These are followed by a section that shows how the strategies are actually applied. The section contains excerpts from the official reports and other material.

The examination of the material was based on a critical investigative method. One important starting-point in this work was not to form any opinion about whether the application for care with the backing of LVU was right or wrong.


  1. Approach

Studies were first made of the literature. This provided basic information on the legal aspect, such as, for example, the directives of the Constitution Act concerning objectivity and impartiality, the intentions of SoL, LVU and FL (Administration Act). I tried to find out about the psychological methods used in persecution strategies, and different psychological phenomena that might lead to an inadequate investigation.

Previous research was studied, including among other things, definitions of strategies found earlier.

Then I went systematically through the official reports to see whether working methods that were persecutory in nature had been used. Anything that could be regarded as persecution strategies was marked and compared with persecution strategies found earlier. The material was found to contain a number of previously found persecution strategies and also others not previously recorded. After going through the investigative material several more times, the strategies found were sorted out.

Finally, out of consideration for the individuals concerned, any means of personal identification were removed.


  1. Advantages and disadvantages of the method

One advantage as far as the research method is concerned has been the access to the material throughout the research period and, thanks to that, the possibility of checking any points of uncertainty. The contact with the representative and the client has also been an advantage from the point of view of information. It has also been a good thing that the author of the paper has not been able to influence the texts. This has meant that expectancy and interview effects have been avoided.

When interviews, questionnaires, etc, are used, the subjective methods influence the generation of data, but this does not occur with textual data of this kind, for the investigators probably did not foresee that the text would be examined by a psychology student.

One disadvantage is not being able to ascertain how many facts are erroneous or suppressed. The selection of the text material can possess subjective elements, and other researchers might interpret the material differently. Some faulty reasoning might also have affected the analysis. No claim is made to having completely covered the different perspectives or explanations.



 3.1 Factual perspective

Edvardsson (1996) states that investigative work shall be done with an investigative methodology that combines critique and fact and not with subjective, unfactual and partial procedures. "Weak investigations can lead to incorrect and unsuitable decisions resulting in high human and economic costs. Legal security is affected and people’s belief in the authorities is undermined by investigations of low quality." (p. 8)

Children are hard hit in poor investigations although it is often said that they are done to protect the children. Edvardsson (1996, p.9) says that a critical and factual investigative methodology should yield benefits for all parties. The fundament for this is:

  • The Constitution Act, 1 chap 9§, which states equality in the eye of the law, as well as factuality and impartiality in the activities of authorities. Investigative work and investigation texts must follow these requirements.

  • Social Service Law, which states that a view of the whole, protecting the client perspective, liberating and developing resources, taking measures in agreement with the client and respect for the individual’s integrity and ability to decide for himself should be a part of investigative work.

  • Basic principles embraced by nearly all researchers exist in critical and scientific methodology, which should also apply for investigative activities. Among these requirements are " Clarity, stating the purpose and/or question, stating theoretical assumptions and definitions, reporting methods, relevant information, reliability, being precise, carefulness, control, reporting sources, critique of sources, comprehensiveness, systematic procedures, respect for and indication of uncertainty, support of concrete data, logical contexts, consideration of different interpretations or explanations, efforts to construct theories (i.e. work with statements in an experimental fashion), equally rigorous testing of different hypotheses, open reporting of support and of thought processes leading to conclusions and judgements, ongoing critical discussion of methods-results-conclusions, avoidance of emotional language and ethical consideration for the protection of individual people."

  • Taking advantage of critical information, meaning that it is not avoided in investigative work to take up poor conditions, sources of errors etc. in authorities’ work procedures and actions. "Texts may not be partial to the advantage of the authorities."

  • Psychological research has developed a number of theories and results concerning e.g. memory, expectancy and influential factors, decision situations, though processes, group norms, power relations. These discuss how people (including investigators) comprehend and function in different situations. There are many research results on perceptional errors, remembering incorrectly, thinking incorrectly etc. that can have an influence in decision-making.

  • Being critical of sources is an important point of departure in investigative work, where consideration is taken to the "historical situation" concerning the origins of the material and e.g. biased material is considered to be unreliable.

  • In the case of analysis of statements, the fundamental thought is "to study psychological factors concerning how important statements have come into existence and been changed." (See Trankell, 1963)

  • Discursive psychology "takes consideration to how man’s underlying motive and actual situation affects e.g. memory and reporting information. According to that theory, memory is interactive, i.e. we give different versions depending upon who and in what situation we remember."

  • Logic and probability theory contains principles such as that certain facts must exist in order to be able to maintain that something is true and that probabilities can not be turned in the opposite direction against those for whom they are stated to apply.

  • Language philosophy, semantics and propaganda theory describe how linguistic influential factors can lead to incorrect thinking (see Andersson & Furberg, 1984; Hayakawa, 1973).

  • The ecology, i.e. the surrounding cultural, social, political, organisational and group-psychological contexts, e.g. as concerns values, ideas of reality and views of people (see e.g. Alversson, 1983; Edvardsson, 1988). The investigator’s own thoughts, values, experiences and feeling are an important part of the ecology. This can be called psycho-ecology.

  • Ethically reasonable work procedure. Respect must exist for the person/people whom the investigation shall shed light upon, as provocations and occasionally also a destructive way of acting takes place in investigative work.

Trankell (1963, p. 127) explains "formal structural analysis" i.e. that one investigates the available information’s structure and investigates it with consideration to its possibilities for giving a meaningful and uncontradictory total picture of the underlying reality. Trankell gives two criteria for judgement of interpretations:

"If an interpretation leaves a great deal of the existing information unexplained, it can not be considered to give a certain, true description of the underlying reality."

If all interpretations must be rejected on the ground of the first criterion, this is an indication that important information is still missing or that the information collected has been incorrectly analysed. For an interpretation to be able to be accepted according to Trankell, it must also fulfil the other criteria:

"If an interpretation shall be accepted as a certain, true description of the underlying reality, it must alone give a reasonable explanation for the information at hand."

Trankell states that the formal structural analysis can never show how something has come about exactly. Its main task is instead as "primarily an instrument, with whose help we can reject theories and hypotheses that are built upon false or insufficient premises."

Naess (1981, chap 6) gives six main norms for factuality. If a text goes against one of these norms, it can be seen as unfactual.

  • Norm 1, biased talk not directly related to the subject. "One should keep oneself to the subject (even when one believes that it can injure one’s own interests). (..) One’s one contributions must have sufficient relevance and validity as judged from one’s own standpoint."

  • Norm 2, biased references. An expression in a serious discussion that is meant to give an opinion should be neutral in relation to all standpoints.

  • Norm 3, biased ambiguity. "An expression should not be of the kind that there exists a great risk for misunderstanding on the part of listeners."

  • Norm 4, biased use of hasty conclusions. "Persons shall not be ascribed opinions without saying that the persons in question would probably protest, or without indicating the ground upon which one ascribed the person opinions that he says he does not have."

  • Norm 5, biased descriptions. "A description (report or theory) goes against norm five if it neglects to give some facts and emphasises others or in some way gives a description that makes the reader receive an imbalanced or directly incorrect picture of what is being described and which serves the interests of the sender."

  • Norma 6, biased use of the context. "Expressions should be given in a neutral way under neutral conditions."

All six norms are highly relevant in LVU investigations. Keeping neutral, being clear and not withholding relevant information are requirements for an investigation to be factual and impartial. Thus these norms should be applied in investigative work, among other reason from the intentions of the Constitution as concerns factuality and impartiality.


3.2 Investigative perspective

Factuality, competence, knowledge and self-knowledge are extremely important in social work and especially in management and investigations. "Investigations means advanced thinking and not just reporting of material." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.21).

Edvardsson (1996, p.11) sees investigations as a process in which questions and hypotheses are developed and data to answer these questions and hypotheses are created, tested, analysed and interpreted. "In order for something to be called an "investigation", "investigation work" or "investigation text", certain requirements of factuality should be fulfilled. If not, it has to do with something else, e.g. rumour, impulse actions, careless notes, a montage of information, a partial expressions of ideas or a propaganda text."

Edvardsson further explains the most basic demands that should be placed upon an investigation:

Background and underlying perspective shall be clearly stated.

Purpose and/or set of problems (possibly hypotheses) shall be clearly stated.

Factual methodology, which reasonably corresponds to each question, shall be used and described well enough that it can be repeated.

Relevant information in relation to the question(s) shall be used.

A view of the whole shall be applied according to the intentions of the social service authority.

Reliability, i.e. information shall have reasonable reliability and known sources of error and influential factors shall be specified.

Sources and the material that the investigator has used shall be reported so clearly that checks can be made.

Dated information - it is often valuable to indicate the time of day.

Source criticism and checks shall be applied, e.g. consideration shall be taken to classic questions concerning source criticism such as presence in time and space, biased material, psychological factors such as preconceived ideas, expectations, perceptual distortions, conflicts, friendships, memory lapses etc.

Being precise - i.e. information shall be precise enough as to be meaningful. An important requirement is that situations that have occurred can be made precise via questions such as " who, what where, when, how, how often, how long?"

Hypothetical thinking shall be used, i.e. alternative hypotheses shall be stated and tests against respective criteria or against one another with equal exertion.

Logic, i.e. conclusions and judgements, shall be logically connected to basic material presented. If the material offers alternative interpretations, these shall be reported.

Lack of bias, i.e. the work may not be carried out such that the investigator attempts to seek and report material that represents only one preconceived view.

Independence, i.e. the investigator must remain independent in conflicts between parties.

Material important to the question must never be withheld.

Factual bases may not be made up, changed or imagined. Information shall have a factual foundation.

Uncertainty, which the investigator judges to exist, shall be indicated verbally.

Emotional words shall be avoided by the investigator himself - although the person giving the information, if this is relevant, may be referred to.

Corroboration, i.e. all material in an investigative text shall be corroborated by respective personal sources. A collective corroboration may never be accepted.

Dependencies, conflicts, objections, gossip etc. that disturbs the investigation and twists the meaning of the text shall not take place.

Normal human variations must be given consideration. The investigator may not intimate on the basis of his own personal or his group's values that certain normal variations are better or worse than others.

Openness, i.e. the material shall be collected openly in relation to the person(s) who is/are the object of the investigation.

The client perspective is necessary, i.e. the persons who are in focus in an investigation shall be given as much leeway as they desire to present that which they consider to be relevant - verbally or in writing.

The child perspective shall be carefully considered, by interviewing children down to an age of 4.5 years, indirectly by using reliable information from other persons about the child, theoretically via empirical research about separation effects, children's needs, parental contact etc. are carefully considered.

Resource analysis - people's own resources and network resources shall be investigated and reported. The investigative work shall be focused on how these resources can be developed.

The investigator's own behaviour, i.e. the effect of the investigator's own actions and of the investigation process on the occurrence of behaviours, symptoms and counteractions shall be taken into consideration when information is analysed.

Principle of non-contamination. Investigative work may not be contaminated (mixed together) with the investigator's own preconceived ideas, ideas without a fundamental basis, own feelings such as "worry" etc.

Ethical requirements are placed on investigative work and linguistic expressions in investigations.

Great attempts shall be made for comprehensiveness and factual language. An investigation at the action of an authority may not be constructed in a deceitful manner for the purpose of being convincing, e.g. through a one-sided selection of information or through conscious withholding of resource analyses and alternative interpretations.

Disturbing effects may not be present, i.e. an investigator must be aware of the disturbing effect of the ecology and his own psycho-ecology on his own thinking.

Edvardsson (1996, p.15) emphasises that it is important to be aware of the human total context surrounding an investigative process in order to be aware and have control over the surrounding world's (ecology's) influence. Edvardsson sees society as a power and interest field, where strong actors such as the mass media, government and courts determine what thought patterns and values will dominate, which affects and disturbs investigative work. A common idea among investigators, which according to socio-psychological research is seriously incorrect, is that the investigator is not assumed to have any effect on the person(s) being investigated. Everything that comes about via the influence of the investigator can in the understanding be interpreted as whatever the investigator wishes to demonstrated, according to Edvardsson.

Edvardsson brings up a problem in investigative work, that is, that selective use of legal texts, statements by parliamentary commissioners and general advice from the social service authority takes place against the client, but not in favour of the client, which twists the meaning of an investigation.

Edvardsson (1996, p.19) remarks that investigative texts in e.g. social investigations, child psychological investigations, to a great extent are characterised by "investigative methodological naivety". This implies that critical awareness of one's own methods and thought processes are lacking. Investigators' own feelings and opinions are mixed into the investigative texts. Interpretations are naive and farfetched and are made in order to fit with the conclusion that the investigator wishes to come to, and no other alternative interpretations are considered. From a methodological viewpoint, these investigations appear to be "naive collages" according to Edvardsson. The phenomenon implies that investigations lack questions, that information of varying quality is collected in an unplanned fashion, in order to be put together later into an investigative text.

3.3 Judicial perspective

The form of government constitutes the basic rules for the activities of the social authority. The Constitution Act 1 chap. §9 establishes the following: "Courts and administrative authorities and others that perform tasks in public administration shall in their activities heed all persons’ equality before the law and observe factuality and impartiality."

The basic goals of the social service authority are described in 1§ SoL, where the basic values such as democracy, equality, solidarity and security are stated. All activities shall be built upon respect for people's right to decide over themselves and for their integrity. The following is stated in 9§ SoL: "The efforts of the social service authority for an individual persons shall be formed and carried out together with this person and, when necessary, in co-operation with other social organs and with other organisations and associations."

The following is stated in SoL 51§: "What has been discovered in an investigation and is significant for determining a matter shall be utilised in a safe and satisfactory fashion."

Norström and Thunved (1996, p.142) state: "The documentation of what has been discovered in an investigation should be limited to what is necessary in a true judgement of the matter and its settlement. Unnecessary information about the clients' personal relationships shall be avoided. Furthermore, one should not unnecessarily document subjective values concerning the clients and their personal relationships."

"From the regulations in 7§ of the administrative law it is clear among other things that an authority shall strive to express itself in an easily understandable way. The social service authority's documentation shall thus be formed in such a way that the persons whom the matter concerns can read and understand the investigation." (General Counsel, 1994:3, p.59)

General counsel from the social service authority (1994:3, p.59) also states the following: "The contents of the investigation shall be relevant. Only information that concerns the matter in question may be included (…) An investigation shall be credible. This means that no factual information shall be included that cannot be corroborated. (…) In order that suitable care shall be able to be given, it is necessary that there exists a comprehensive and careful investigation. An effort shall not be begun without there being an investigation about the family and a judgement has shown that the proposed effort is the most suitable one for the child."

The so called ecology cases are focused on shedding light on to what extent the child's basic needs are recognised and fulfilled by the parents and whether there is an obvious risk that the child shall be injured. The judgement of the present and future situation (prognosis) shall be made on the basis of actual conditions. Experience and all factors shall be weighed together, psychological, medical and legal. A sensitive description of the relation between the parents and the child shall be given, and resources, developmental possibilities and the family's network shall, just as risk factors, be reported in the investigation.

"In the investigation, it shall be possible to differentiate between such information as constitutes facts that can be corroborated (hard data) and such information as constitutes judgements, either the judgements of others or one's own." (p.64)



The law on care for children and youths (LVU) is a complement to SoL, in the situations when the voluntary efforts that can be given with the support of SoL are not sufficient. That is, the law is used first when it is found that it is not possible to come to agreement as to the care considered necessary for the child according to the social service authority.

Judgements on care according to LVU are made by county courts after notification via the social service authority, and the maximum time in which the case shall be treated is four weeks. A decision about care with the support of LVU implies that the parents' right to decide over the child is limited in the extent that is necessary for care to be able to be carried out.

Immediate custody can be carried out when there is direct danger for the child's life and health. This means that the social service authority can, without waiting for a decision by the county court, place the child in a "safe environment". When a child is taken into custody, it is placed in an emergency home. When the child is given care for a longer period of time the child is placed in a so called family home.

"The social service authority shall regularly and at least each sixth month according to 28§ SoL and 13§ second paragraph LVU consider whether care needs to continue when it is a case of a child that has been given care with the support of 6 and 12§ SoL or 2§ LVU (ecology case)." (general counsel from the social service authority 1994:3, p.65)

3.4 Perspective of the child

"The social service law shall fulfil the child's need of care and eventual efforts shall be made for the child's good. The child can not itself demand its rights with the support of the law, but the social service authority represents the child and takes upon itself the care responsibility for children who are taken into custody and placed outside their own families' homes." (Hagbard & Esping, 1992, p.19)

Hollander (1985, chap. 6) state that a vaguely formulated law and detailed rules for action do not constitute a guarantee that the child's needs and the child's good are fulfilled. Her feeling is that a detailed and more precise legislation is necessary to facilitate the application of the law and to reduce the risk that the wrong children are taken into custody.

Hollander further explains that the study of a number of child custody cases has made obvious the importance of recognising the evidence and interpretation problems in child custody cases: "It can not be considered sufficient to confirm that there are documented bad conditions in the home. Facts concerning the connections between these conditions and the "danger" for the child's health and development must be clarified."

The different parties in an LVU case can have different conditions and assumptions. Hollander (1985, p.299) explains: "Both parents and children have a weak position in child care cases. It is hardly a lack of formal legal safety guarantees that can explain this, and instead a composition of parties that characterises these cases. The individual parties, parents and children, are socially and economically weak. They are not familiar with legal regulations and do not know how to act strategically." Hollander (1985) found in her doctoral thesis that facts in child care cases had primarily to do with the guardian, generally the mother, and with her weaknesses. Evidence issues were concentrated around these facts, while few factors in the child's environment were reported. Hollander points out that facts about the children were always few and did not agree with the requirements for analysis of the child's need for care and prognosis for development that the legislation states. A conclusion that Hollander draws is that the legislation is more a coercive law for the parents than a law acting to the advantage of the child.

Heap (1983, p.156) points out: "According to the child care legislation, it is the task of the authority to judge the conditions in which the child lives, judge whether these conditions imply a danger to the child's health and development. The authority's treatment has however been characterised by showing evidence, while the child's total situation and needs have been lost."

Hagbard & Esping (1992, p.20) believe that "The increasing professionalisation in child care in the last decades brings with it risks that the social worker ideal takes over the parents' role as model for upbringing and for judgements about the child's good."

They feel that the increasing professionalisation instead should be directed toward looking for the child's perspective and understanding the child's experiences and feelings. This would give a better guarantee that the child's interests and good are being safeguarded.

Anita Cederström (1990, ref I Holmberg, 1990) followed 25 children that were placed in foster homes in her thesis "Foster children's adjusting relations problems". Her belief is that it is not the quality of the foster homes that are decisive for the children's development but how the children's relations with the parents have been. The starting point for Cederström was that the children's relations with the parents were completely decisive for how they would develop in the foster home. This was also demonstrated. The results showed that children whose parents were not able to see and accept their needs developed in a negative way. It went best for the children who had been seen by the parents and not been drawn into their internal conflicts.

A conclusion that Cederström draws is that if one identifies the child's relation to the parents, one can get a better understanding of the child's situation.

"However, it is clear that one must place greater importance on trying to understand the psychological situation that the child exists in to be able to determine whether a placement in a foster home is possible at all or whether other measures must be taken. And to be able to support the foster parents so that they understand what is happening with the child."

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child

In the convention concerning children's rights that was adopted by the UN in 1989 and that Sweden ratified, Article 12.1 states: "State Parties shall assure the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age at and maturity of the child."

2: For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard, in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly or through representatives or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law."

Article 25 states: " State Parties recognise the right of a child who has been placed by the competent authorities for the purpose of care, protection or treatment of his or her physical or mental health, to a periodic review of the treatment and all other circumstances relevant to his or her custody." (Hagbard & Esping, 1992, p.16)

The UN's child convention is also applicable for children taken into care in a foster home.


Edvardsson (1989) develops four hypotheses on the occurrence of persecution strategies:

* The phenomenon of the professional role existing in the interaction between civil servant and organisation culture. Edvardsson means that the non-factual thinking that the investigator displays can be a result of general mental tendencies to twist things in organisational cultures and professional roles. That mental fixations occur in certain concepts such as "abuse", "aggression", "lack of order" etc. The social worker works so much with e.g. drug abusers and their problems that the way of thought is generalised without authorisation to others also.

* Destructive stress interaction in the interplay between social worker and client.

That the strategies that the organisation has used to reduce its own anxiety place stress upon the client so that the client acts in a special way that further stresses the persons from the authority. An "evil circle" is established.

* Increasing irrational consensus formulation.

That the persons at the authority influence one another to come to a similar judgement, which can very well be irrational or obviously incorrect.

* Compensation of loss of power.

Edvardsson states that when the client, the civil servant feels a loss of power in relation to his understanding of how much power he should have, a compensating behaviour occurs, rational or irrational, e.g. persecution strategies.

The legislative area in the context of investigations determines/decides what the result of LVU cases shall be. This area "allows" weaknesses, enables and justifies persecution strategies.

"Benneche and Dahl feel that it is possible that children are taken into custody on unjustified or incorrect grounds even if decisions are legally unassailable. As support for this statement, they show that authorities understand the law's social goals and the law's intentions in very different ways. The law's goals are thus an uncertain guarantee that children's interests are being protected." (Hollander, 1985, p.53)

So called expert statements weigh heavily in investigation contexts. These statements are seldom examined and questioned, i.e. critical thinking is seldom used.

Hollander (1985) found in her investigation of 352 child care cases that the investigations were comprehensive and exact in regard to the parents' situation but considerably more limited with respect to the children themselves. She gives an interpretation of why social authorities' decisions or proposals for decisions are seldom questioned by administrative courts. The interpretation is based on the fact that investigative social workers and other child card experts have such a decisive influence that laymen and lawyers in the social service authority and administrative courts can not influence the results or have a well-grounded, diverging understanding. Hollander also presents another interpretation that implies that agreement can be explained such that "experts tend more to take children into custody for social care because they define the conflict in child care cases primarily as a conflict between parents and children." (p.343)

Claezon (1987) writes in his doctoral thesis about the dilemma of the social secretary. She believes that the social secretary can feel anxiety, that he or she experiences that society asks for work to be carried out at the same time that he or she is refused adequate resources. That this situation occurs may depend on the social secretaries being given too many child care cases, that they must work under time pressure, that there is a lack of guidance, the organisation's lack of resources etc. Claezon also believes that the social secretary is affected by the client's hostile feelings, which can lead to the social secretary's also feeling "unpermitted" feelings, and through projective identification, feelings are transferred to the client and strengthen the negative picture of him or her. "The client becomes the dangerous, unreliable and aggressive person who wishes other people ill and this picture grows larger and larger in the social secretary, who himself or herself "wants to do good"." (p.136)

Moxnes (1987) came to the conclusion in his case description that, in organisation and bureaucracies, there is anxiety among its members. This anxiety is created by those who have a power or status position. High status is related to security. The anxiety is greatest among those people who are farthest down in the status hierarchy. Seeing the social secretary as being farthest down in the hierarchical ladder in the organisation of the social service authority is not impossible from this viewpoint. Moxnes explains that those who feel anxiety create social defences and defence mechanisms to protect themselves from the anxiety. Examples of some defence mechanisms are categorisation and denial of the client's significance, resistance to change, diagnostisation and pathologisation, creation of scapegoats etc.

The creation of scapegoats is a common social defence mechanism. Scapegoats are society's, organisations' and families' anxiety-diverters. Scapegoats can be set up to divert awareness from the actual problem. "Being a scapegoat means feeling others' anger without having provoked it oneself so that it is not necessary for these others to feel guilty." (Moxnes, 1987, p.121)

By the use of different strategies in documentation, one can get clients to seem aberrant in different respects. Angelöw and Jonsson (1990, chap.7) underscore that aberrant behaviour is socially constructed, created by the surroundings and influential social groups who have the power to decide what behaviour shall receive respect and prestige and which condemnation and negative sanctions. That is, what behaviour shall be seen as aberrant. A form of aberrant behaviour has to do with the creation of scapegoats and snubbing people. "That a persecutory way of work comes into existence may be because it is difficult for society to reconcile itself with and tolerate those who are different.

Power and interest field guide much of the work of the social service. The group that has power sets up the rules. The power defines reality. Politicians set up directives for the organisation, both in terms of work and its economy." (Jäderqvist et al., 1994, p.39)

Hayakawa (1973, p 216) points out: "People are such that they have to organise their activities so that behavioural patterns come about that are more or less uniform within one and the same social group." Hayakawa further explains that when people have become used to their institution, they get a feeling that their institution represents the only right and correct way to do things.

Groupthink is a thought process that can occur in closely knit groups. Group think implies that the individual stops thinking critically himself. The group seeks agreement more than quality in the work process. If there is a strong group feeling in an organisation, this leads to a high frequency of group think, which in turn leads to serious defects in decision-making.

Janis (1972, p.174) lists eight main symptoms for group think in his group think theory. The different symptoms are divided into three groups (main types):

Group 1: Overestimation of the group

Symptom 1 - an illusion of invincibility that is shared by most of the members in the groups, creates exaggerated optimism that stimulates extreme risk-taking.

Symptom 2 - a common unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morals, giving members in the group a tendency to ignore ethical or moral consequences in their decision-making.

Group 2: Narrow-mindedness

Symptom 3 - collective attempts to rationalise in order to consciously be able to ignore warnings or other information that can question the group's decisions.

Symptom 4 - stereotypical views of rivals/enemies as too evil to be able to correctly deliberated upon or too weak and stupid to be able to struggle against the views of the group.

Group 3: Pressure toward uniformity

Symptom 5 - Self-censure of deviations from the group's agreement that reflect each group member's tendency to minimise for himself the significance of his own doubt and counter-argument.

Symptom 6 - A shared illusion about agreement that applies to judgements that are adapted to the view of the majority. This illusion results partially from self-censure of deviations that are affected by the false assumption that not speaking out means agreeing.

Symptom 7 - Direct pressure on a member that expresses strong argument against one of the group's stereotypes, illusions or agreements. It is made clear that this type of deviation is in conflict with what is expected of loyal group members.

Symptom 8 - The group has self-appointed mind guards. These group members protect the group from unfavourable information that would split the group's common self-satisfaction as regards effectiveness and morals in their decisions.

All eight main symptoms do not need to be present for group think to come about. The consequences of group think are shown through group members not being aware of relevant information that can force them to change their ideas. Janis gives seven symptoms that show poor decision-making in a group:

- insufficient examination of alternatives. The group's discussion is limited to only a few alternatives, most often only two.

- insufficient examination of the degree of objectivity. The group does not investigate that objectivity is present in the decision-making process.

- failure to investigate the risks of the group's decision

- failure to re-evaluate alternatives rejected in the beginning. The group members do not bother to investigate previously rejected alternatives.

- poor information search. The group ignores information sources such as experts in the area in question.

- selective bias in treating information. This occurs when group members choose information from expert statements, mass media, independent critics etc. They reject information that does not support the group’s decisions and policy.

Failure to develop possibly necessary alternative plans. The group uses too little time in developing alternative approaches, if the chosen plan should stumble upon obstacles.

The attribution theory treats how people come to insights about themselves and other to understand each other better. We ascribe reasons for why things happen, why people behave the way they do. We ascribe a person characteristics, motives, that can constitute a reason for an action or we ascribe a person's surroundings reasons that can explain their behaviour.

According to attribution research, we often ascribe reasons in a rational way. An attribution error that is well known is called the "fundamental attribution error".

"We have a striking tendency to overestimate the role of personal factors and to underestimate the influence of the situation/surroundings when we describe others' behaviour." (Smith, 1993, p.342).

Cognitive psychology and research describes many thinking errors. Some of these seem to exist in investigation contexts and may help persecution strategies to come about.

Smith (1993, p.342) mentions a thinking error called "confirmation bias"; "people are often unwilling to challenge their cherished beliefs. Instead, they are prone to fall into a trap called confirmation bias, they tend to look for evidence that will confirm what they currently believe rather than looking for evidence that tests their beliefs."

Edvardsson (1996, p.98) mentions a number of thinking errors that can have an effect in investigations:

- perceptual distortion, meaning that one believes that one sees and hears what is expected in spite of the fact that reality is not so. For example, clients are seen as aggressive when they question things.

- imperfecta enumeratio is an oversight error that implies that one makes an incomplete count and thus does not take consideration to certain factors, hypotheses, interpretations, alternative decisions etc.

- contextual implication, means that one leaves it to the reader to make the interpretation that the context implies.

- generalising on the basis of only a few pieces of information

- decontextualising means that the situation information is removed (or withheld) and leads to a description with a very different significance for the reader.

- base frequency error, means that one ignores how common a phenomenon is in the population in question. Thus, common and trivial phenomena, e.g. critical comments, how messy someone's home is, can be made significant in a certain context.

- implicit relation assumption, making assumptions about relations that lack a factual basis.

- moral thinking error, e.g. accusing someone of a lie without justification for this.

- mental availability error, through experience and education, one has concepts and possibilities easily available in one's memory. An investigator can, by mixing in easily available experience, his own ideas, values that do not have to do with the case in question, create false notions.

- extreme uniformity demand, means that one ignores normal variations or becomes fixed on a mean value or ideal. The social service culture can have these, which stand in direct conflict with biological, psychological and sociological knowledge about the normal variation between people.

- the doctrine of zero influence. Concretely, this can mean that the investigator does not understand that he (and others involved) has an effect on the person they are judging.

- unjustified conclusion - non sequitur - means that one draws conclusions in spite of the fact that one or more premises is lacking.

- fallacia libidinis - means that the investigator owing to insufficient foundations and incorrect reasoning, linguistic shifts and associations, reaches the desired conclusion.

- overconfidence - uncertain statements can be made categorically without indication of uncertain markers and shifts in meaning.

- grandiosity error - one raises someone above critical examination.

- secret evidence error - one keeps evidence secret. If evidence is missing, there is fabulation or lies.

- solution fixation - using the same old solution and applying it to different types of problems.

- bolstering and de-emphasising - these phenomena come about when one non-objectively adjusts an investigation so that the solution one has become fixed upon shall be suitable.

Edvardsson (1996, p.119) talks about a behaviour that he calls "control psychosis", which implies that "extreme control behaviour is developed toward people on weak or contradictory factual grounds."

Control psychosis can be a causative background to the occurrence of a persecutory work approach. Edvardsson feels that it is different thinking errors that lie behind this behaviour, such as paranoia errors, that the investigator creates incorrect ideas about the parents' dangerousness, bolstering error, that small incidents are used as arguments to increase control efforts, confusion errors, that the investigator cannot differentiate between his own and the organisation's need for control and the child's needs.

Memory is influenced by different factors, which can lead to the occurrence of memory errors. Our work memory can hold about 7 +/- 2 information units at the same time (cf. Ashcraft, 1994, chap.4). Sjöberg (1978, p.112) reports research results that show that our judgement is affected by a large amount of information.

"The number of clues seems to have the effect that the more clues one presents, the greater is the uncertainty in judgements. At the same time, however, the subjective confidence in the judgements seems to increase drastically."

There is a great difference between experienced and actual judgement ability when the amount of information increases. This gives an idea about how the amount of information (correct, diffuse, incorrect) in social investigations is received and interpreted by an investigator.

Edvardsson (1996, p.159) states that implicit taboos or limits to expression occur among investigators. One of the reasons that investigative texts are the way they are seems to be that there is a taboo against critical thinking in social service and care organisations. This expresses itself in making clients who give criticism pathological, instead of thinking about the contents of the criticism. Edvardsson further explains:

"There also seems to exist a strong taboo in investigative texts in each case against critically examining one’s own and other authorities’ actions. (…) These taboos give rise to incorrect interpretations and a great risk for incorrect judgements."

Another possible causal background for persecution strategies is the client’s dependency on the social secretary. Sunesson (1981, p.70) points out that the social worker’s ideology can affect his client work "by the social worker without being aware of it treating the client in the he "should" be treated, according to his status as a worker, an outsider in society, poor or alone. (…) This can have effects that imply a deepening of the dependency position, something that is probably completely impossible to avoid in today’s social help work."

Sunesson further states: "Having to do with people means in social care that one treats the person as a "client", i.e. one places him more or less automatically in a dependent, childish and primarily subordinate position." (p.83)

Edvardsson (1984,1986) believes that the social service as an organisation creates and maintains technological rationality. This leads to a situation in which resource thinking over-emphasises social efforts and ignores people’s own resources and the informal network’s resources. Clients are seen as objects and not as people, which is demonstrated concretely by poor problem analyses, client perspectives and resource descriptions.

Edvardsson (1986) says that the social service is strongly influenced by awareness processes in the ecology, i.e. authorities, companies, the public, strong interest groups etc. There is a complicated interaction and power position between the social service organisation and other organisations in society. Through this relationship, thought patterns, ideas and values that are not always suitable are transferred from the surrounding society.



Definitions are given here of different persecution strategies that occur in the management of the "rhetoric case".

Edvardsson (1996, p.173) defines the concept of persecution strategy as "thought and action patterns directed toward persons and groups from which basic values about democracy, legal security, objectivity, making one’s own decisions, humanity and not inflicting damage physically/psychically can be judged as not acceptable."

The strategies are not hierarchically organised but instead grouped according to how similar they are to one another. How the strategies are applied in a concrete way will be presented in a later section with excerpts from the investigations.


5.1 Rhetorical strategy

The strategy implies that the investigator uses unobjective reasoning that includes vague statements, interpretations and conclusions about the client and his situation that aim to influence the reader.

The investigator speaks well and thus the reader does not question what lies behind the reasoning. The investigator’s reasoning is like a propaganda text.

The original purpose of the art of rhetoric was to exercise control and to steer, to convince and influence people. Möijer (1989, p.78) brings up general rules, "speech strategies". If one follows these, one has the possibility to steer others’ thoughts and feelings in a determined direction. Möijer describes different rhetorical strategies such as:

  • if the speaker puts himself into the problems, he can meet the listeners in their own idea world. "A conscious tactic is to magnify external threats, exploit listeners’ fear that the situation will change for the worse. A speaker usually first paints a bleak situation and creates an awareness of crisis or fear. He then shows in an effective way what positive changes are."

  • Magic words (with remarkably strong effect), stirring pictures and attention-getting definitions play an important role in all rhetoric.(…) The speaker influences the listener by using the different degrees of value or emotionality of the words. The speech is then characterised by a strong purpose of affecting the listeners in a particular direction. Extremes in the vocabulary are also utilised to make statements clear."

  • "The speaker can keep quiet about or present particular information, make a special fact selection, which can strongly influence listeners’ understanding of what is being described. Another effective way to influence listeners is to use generalisations, i.e. express oneself universally."

"In propaganda and advertising, the so called selection principle is used (Andersson & Furberg, 1973; Ryding, 1980), i.e. a one-sided selection of information is conveyed from a propagandistic purpose and for that purpose disturbing information is withheld. The effect is made stronger through the receiver’s own associations and feelings. Through somewhat contradictory information, a text can also appear as apparently objective. The selection principle is unfortunately applied in many social and child psychiatric investigations." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.43)

The investigator gains a kind of power over the reader where he can manipulate the reader to interpret the text in the way he wants it to be interpreted. Edvardsson (1984, p.132) points out that "Language, phrases, rhetoric can mask the exercising of power and enable the exercising of power." The rhetorical strategy can be divided into several different sub-strategies, certain more common and larger than others. The strategies are not given in hierarchic order:

5.1.1 Insinuating strategy

This strategy means that something is insinuated that one wishes to be presented in the text without saying it clearly and without giving a factual basis for the statement. The text is fashioned so that the reader unconsciously can draw the conclusion the investigator wishes, and that the reader experiences it such that he has not been forced to draw the investigator’s conclusions. This leads to the reader not being critical toward his "own" subjective reasoning.

Melin and Lange (1995, p.50) describe a type of argumentation that they call "the argumenting character". What they mean is that the text contains no formulation of theses and that no actual argumentation is given. "The technique is based on the author, from a prestigious investigation, presenting facts that serve his own understanding and that allow the idea to show the direction for the reader’s "spontaneous" interpretation."

This argumentation method is present in the material analysed through the insinuating strategy.

Edvardsson (1996, p.44) writes "to state that there are signs of abuse, anxiety, psychic disturbance, relation problems, sexual exploitation etc. without clarifying evidence is propaganda, not investigation."

There are two thought errors that work together in the insinuating strategy. The one is contextual implication, which implies that the author does not write any interpretation of his own but allows the reader to make the interpretation that the context indicates. The other is the thought error imperfecta enumeratio, i.e. by a incomplete listing, certain factors and hypotheses are not taken into consideration (cf. Edvardsson, 1996, p.98)

5.1.2 Positive-negative argumentation strategy

This strategy means that the investigator, through his argumentation, tries to get himself to appear as an understanding person for the feelings the client has and situation that he finds himself in. The argumentation is positive. Then follows negative information about the client, for which understanding can not be shown for because the client is outside the framework of how one behaves in a certain situation that the investigator presents. The argumentation is negative. The investigator use the reader’s feelings for the purpose of convincing him.

Möijer (1989, p.50) points out: "For convincing (when true arguments are lacking) personal arguments are sometimes used (that attack the person instead of the question), case arguments (generalisations, universal statements that only apply to a few cases), status arguments (that appeal to someone’s prestige) and majority arguments (that support themselves by "the masses’" way of thinking and acting)".

Edvardsson’s (1996, p.119) comment to an investigator’s reasoning in an expert statement is suitable here: "The principle is to say something negative when something positive has been said."

Ivemyr and Lindwall (1995) write "Argumentation implies convincing someone that something is true. (…) Actual knowledge is not necessary. It is okay to hide behind fine formulations. By rhetoric one can get a person to realise something he/she had not earlier realised."

5.1.3 Negative reinforcement strategy

Junttila et al. (1994, p.28) defines this strategy "as using words that in the context further strengthen the negative message."

Throughout the investigations it occurs that investigators report a negative selection of information concerning the client and her situation. Much of the information is strengthened with negative words. Examples of strengthening words are "very worried", "reacted very strongly", "never, "altogether too much", "obvious signs", "complete personality change", "lost all control" etc. (the examples are taken from the investigations).

Andersson and Furberg (1984, p.140) point out: "With a value-charged word, I convey to the addressee that, according to my opinion, there is reason to harbour a certain feeling or take over a certain position." Through repetition of strengthening words, they can be changed into truths for the receiver. Möijer (1989, p.50) states "Value-charged words, abstract and other vague expressions can be used for the purpose of influencing because they are understood so differently by different people."

5.1.4 Negative synonym strategy

The strategy implies that, for the purpose of convincing, one describes a situation with a number of synonyms, where the other synonyms do not convey any new information to the reader. The words have a similar meaning and strengthen the negative message.

The strategy contains a repetition technique with features of parallelism. Melin and Lange (1995, p.154) explain "Parallelism is a kind of contentual repetition that implies that the same thought or idea is repeated and verbally varied two or more times in some different way."

Liljestrand (1993, p.85) believes that the meaning of the expressions is often synonymous for the repetitions that contain parallelism.

The negative synonym strategy also means redundancy, that if what follows in a text can be foreseen, the continuation is unnecessary. Liljestrand (1993) explains that a text with high redundancy contains many purposeless repetitions, things made more precise and corrections that are unnecessary from an information viewpoint.

5.1.5 Repetition strategy

Jansson & Rönnbäck (1995, p.65) define this strategy "as through a strategic repetition of certain words, one achieves a propaganda effect about that which is said. This can be compared with proposed announcers who through repeated advertising are able to make people experience that they have a need for exactly the announcers’ goods."

Edvardsson (1989, p.7) says that "values and opinions are changed into truths in the mass media by repetition."

Liljestrand (1993, p.82) points out that if non-literary text contains repetitions, it is usually seen as incorrect. "It can generally be said of all repetition that they are redundant features that do not add to the text anything of contentual news."

In Ivemyrs and Lindvall’s (1995) paper, it was found that repetition occurred to a large extent in the 20 LVU investigations that they examined. "Common for strengthening words, factual information and phrases is that all considerations are used in a negative context. Strengthening words are used in 629 negative contexts compared with 199 positive ones." The authors believe that repetition is used in investigations to strengthen and put the focus on information that supports taking custody of the child.

Liljestrand and Arwidson (1993, p.97) say that "Many times repetition is used because the text is incorrectly planned and poorly thought through. The reader can then have a difficult time knowing whether it is something new that is being conveyed – especially if in the second time it is formulated with somewhat different words."

5.1.6 Hammer strategy

A variation of the repetitive strategy is the hammer strategy. The strategy means that the investigator in a stereotypical and comprehensive way is repeating his negative understanding of the client in order to be able to influence the reader’s understanding of the client. The investigator has "favourite words" for describing the client. The investigator tries to "hammer" his opinion in the reader. The strategy gives an additive effect.

The difference between the repetitive strategy and the hammer strategy is that, from the hammer strategy, the investigator’s special and personal understanding of the client comes forth through descriptive favourite words that the investigator has. Examples of words in the rhetoric case are "remarkably", "especially", "strongly negative", "psychic imbalance", "psychic problems", "extreme aggression" etc. The investigator can also have favourite phrases, such as "sudden aggressive attacks" and "sudden and strong aggressive attacks".

Möijer (1989, p.50) maintains that, in an argumentary language style, repetition is used "to strengthen (hammer in) opinions and values."

5.1.7 Multi-minus strategy

This strategy means that the investigator describes a number of negative characteristics that he understands the client to have without having earlier made this precise or without making more precise what he means.

It comes out of the material analysed that an investigator presents an implicit summary of "everything" negative that the client has done and "all" the negative sides that the client has in order to then come to a conclusion. The "conclusion" allows the investigator an excuse to make a summary of everything negative he has about the client. Another possible reason for the investigator’s reasoning can be that the information is occasioned by the conclusion having being decided in advance.


5.1.8 Contrast strategy

The strategy means that the text is presented so that contrasts between different conditions take place in order to exploit these contrasts later for their own purpose. The investigator’s argumentation has a black-white character (see e.g. Edvardsson, 1996b).

The strategy can be thought to be based on the social services’ "us and them" mentality.

5.1.9 Strategy of selective use of words indicating uncertainty

The strategy implies that the investigator generally uses uncertainty markers in positive information about the client but not in negative information.

Uncertainty markers are words such as "appears", "possibly", "perhaps", "is experienced", "seems", "probably" etc. Uncertainty markers can also be used as protection for presenting generalisations and values about persons. Edvardsson (1996, p.176) gives an example in which the investigator writes that "the boy seems aggressive". Uncertainty markers are included, but the risk is still there that the reader loses the uncertainty marker in his memory and that the generalisation remains.

5.1.10 Generalisation strategy

The strategy implies that one uses categorical statements that can contain words such as always, everything, never, no one etc. This also means that the investigator’s understanding of the client in one or a few special situations is generalised to apply for several other situations in which the client has found himself. This is not objectively acceptable.

"A text can be very vague, avoid describing individual events and contain certain generalisations with words such as never, always, continuously, each time, is, nothing, completely. These are signs of fabulation. Reality is seldom so monotonous." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.34). Edvardsson also points out that generalising statements are often made without the reader being able to know the foundation for them.

5.1.11 Strategy of making trivial statements in a negative context

The strategy means that the investigator places a trivial statement in a context that is negative for the client. The consequence is that the text gives the reader an implicit negative meaning regarding the client. The trivial statement does not need to have any connection with the text, in which it stands but can still give a negative picture of the client.


5.2 Strategy of making the client seem pathological

Edvardsson (1993, p.20) defines this strategy as "Trying to get a person to seem psychically disturbed, as needing care, as someone who "feels bad", as strongly emotional, as irrational/stupid, as aggressive, as paranoid etc."

"By defining other people as ‘sick’ or ‘aberrant’, we no longer need to take them so seriously. We can easily avoid the unpleasantness that others’ opinions wake within us by dismissing the person as "abnormal" or "sick". (Moxnes, 1987, p.115).

Edvardsson (1989, p.23) points out: "To have the possibility of being able to interpret everything as a sign of pathology, a certain behaviour, its opposite and everything in between, of course means that everyone who is exposed to the pathologising strategy can be shown to be "disturbed". The fact that it is also theoretically difficult to penetrate with an impressive terminology makes it an excellent means for persecution and exercising power."

Möijer (1989), p.30) points out that professional language is abused, consciously or unconsciously. "Some experts use professional terms to impress their audience or sometimes simply to mislead. Others use advanced professional language for reasons of convenience or inconsideration." It can be seen from the material analysed that the investigators sometimes use "professional language" to give greater strength to the pathologisation of the client without indicating a factual foundation.

It also comes forth that an investigator defends his decision to write that the client has a messy home by writing that it is of an extreme nature. Edvardsson (1991) states that there are different factors such as messiness at home, clothing, language that make the attention of the social bureau more keen and can lead to negative judgements about the client. The factor of messiness in the home often comes up as an argument in investigations.

Throughout the investigative material it comes out that the investigators make the client appear aggressive, strange, psychically ill and need of care in several different ways. From the investigators’ approach can be seen the strategy of making the client seem pathological, which is an overall strategy with several different sub-strategies.

5.2.1 Strategy of implying that the client’s criticism stems from the client’s pathological condition

The strategy implies that the investigator sees the client’s criticism against him and the social service as an expression of psychic disturbance, aggression, that the client is peculiar etc.

The strategy of pathologising criticism violates the Swedish Constitution (Regeringsformen 2 chap 1§), according to which all citizens have the liberty to express thoughts, opinions and feelings. Edvardsson (1991, p.181) explains that when the client behaves critically or aggressively toward the social worker, this often leads to greater attention and diverse negative thoughts and discussions among them. He further explains that it is often felt that the person who is critical and verbally aggressive is psychically disturbed and unsuitable to care for his or her own child. Edvardsson feels that there are no objective grounds for this reasoning.

5.2.2 Therapy strategy

This strategy means that one maintains that a person needs therapy without giving objective reasons for the statement or reporting professional competence for making such a statement. An uncritical reader is easily influenced by the fact that a person uses "psychological therapy terms" and professional language and thus neglects to further investigate how the statement has come to be made.

5.2.3 Strategy of making the client seem peculiar

This strategy implies that the investigator makes the client appear "peculiar", "extreme", "difficult to predict", "unpredictable" etc. without giving an objective basis for this. The strategy was supposed to have occurred during the witch trials of the 1600s and can be seen also in psychiatric textbooks and reasonings. The strategy ignores the client’s integrating with situations.

5.2.4            Strategy of making the client’s behaviour seem too intense

In this strategy, the investigator describes the client’s behaviour categorically as "sudden", "intense" etc. The description has a negative content. To describe a person as "sudden" can facilitate the appearance of the person as "peculiar".

5.2.5            Strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error

This strategy implies ascribing the individual the cause of an event without examining the influence of the situation.

Smith (1993, p.607) explains that people have an obvious tendency to overestimate the role of personal factors and to underestimate the effect of the situation when we explain others’ behaviour. The tendency is so strong and is used so often that it is called "the fundamental attribution error". In the "rhetoric case", an investigator describes the client as aggressive several times without having looked at the situation factors that may have influenced her behaviour.

"In the fundamental attribution error (see e.g. Hewstone, 1989) situation factors can be made to be individual characteristics. This is an exceedingly common phenomenon." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.99).

5.2.6            Scapegoat strategy

This strategy implies that the investigator and others use the client’s personality and behaviour as a cause for many of the problems that have occurred. All responsibility is put on the client while the investigator can excuse his or her own and others’ mistakes.

Moxnes (1987, p.121) explains: "Being a scapegoat implies that, without being guilty, one can be the object of others’ anger so that they do not need to feel guilty. Only the scapegoat himself and the person who stands outside the social game can see the innocence of the scapegoat." Moxnes refers to Jaques, who believes that the creation of scapegoats has its grounds in the projection of the poor side of a person on others.

5.2.7            Strategy of calling attention to non-existent "facts"

In this strategy, the investigator and others mention situations etc. that have not occurred. The argumentation gives an intimation that there have been grounds for suspecting the client. The strategy consists of two sub-strategies.

  1. Non-weakness argumentation strategy

Means that the investigator mentions weaknesses that the client does not have. The argumentation gives an intimation that there have been grounds for suspecting the client of this. The investigator’s view of the client has influenced the argumentation.

  1. Non-behaviour argumentation strategy

The strategy implies that the investigator mentions different behaviour/actions that the client has not displayed or done.


5.3               Suppression strategy

This strategy implies a conscious or unconscious suppression of information and an avoidance of being precise, which leads to a situation in which important facts do not come to the attention of the reader and can thus not influence the reader’s understanding. The reader is given a false picture of the investigation (cf. Edvardsson, 1996b). Naess (1981, chap. 6) states in his third primary norm for objectivity that information may not be such that the reader can misunderstand the author’s message or that the reader can interpret the information in another way than the author. If one violates this norm, the information can not be seen as objective. Edvardsson (1996, p.43) emphasises that "It is important that the selection of situations and material is balanced according to the Constitution’s demands for objectivity and impartiality. Positive circumstances must not be withheld."

Janis and Mann (1979, p.58) list five patterns for thought processes in decision-making. One of the patterns is called defensive avoidance. This implies that one ignores available information that can disclose disadvantages in the alternative chosen. This suppression strategy is an overall strategy with several sub-strategies.

5.3.1            Strategy of ignoring the client’s perspective

Junttila et al. (1994, p.40) defines the strategy of ignoring the client perspective: "The client perspective means that one takes into consideration the client’s understanding, experience, ideas, suggestions, own feelings, resources, networks etc. Ignoring the client perspective makes the client seem like an object."

Edvardsson (1996, p.59) says "The client perspective is necessary for solving problems and for fulfilling impartiality, objectivity, democracy, legal security and ethics in investigations. A practice in which the client’s views are not ascribed any great value is destructive and an expression for elitist "us and them" thinking."

Ignoring the client perspective occurs in the text analysed, e.g. when the investigators have not critically examined the material, have not given the sources of the information and have not considered alternative interpretations or explanations. The investigators have also ignored the client’s version of different events and situations. Edvardsson (1991, p.168) ascribes the consideration of clients’ understandings, experiences, criticism, ideas and suggestions great importance. He makes the point that such information is ignored to a large extent in today’s social work.

5.3.2            Strategy of vagueness

"This strategy implies that vague and imprecise information is offered in the investigation. The investigator in a matter must according to RF chap 9§ observe objectivity. He/she may not include vague or unobjective statements in his or her investigation that allow the reader to interpret the material in his own way but must be clear in all ways so that no unnecessary misunderstandings occur." (Stenberg, 1995, p.30)

The vagueness strategy includes what Naess 81981, p.105) calls "biased ambiguity"; "A text section should not be of the kind that there is a large risk for misunderstanding on the part of the listeners." Naess (p.115) also maintains that "abuse of language, especially through use of weaknesses in being precise, paves the way for all common forms of lack of objectivity. As regards being precise, it is also easiest to fight a lack of objectivity. The method of being precise is thus of great importance."

5.3.3            Strategy of gradually suppressing details

Through one’s way of writing, one can perform a successive suppression in the text. In concrete terms, this may mean that the investigator rewrites the text so that the emphasis on the issue in question is not as obvious.

Using the strategy of gradually suppressing details, an investigator can decontextualise, that is, the situation information is removed or withheld, which results in the description taking on a completely different significance for the reader. Edvardsson (1996, p.99) writes: "Decontextualised information leads to incorrect interpretations and incorrect judgements. Decontextualisation is often used for the purpose of propaganda (among other situations in investigations in the social service)."

5.3.4            Strategy of using the impersonal form

This strategy implies that one writes such that the subject is lacking in the sentence or that the subject consists of the word "one". The consequence is that the reader does not know who has made the statement, has a certain opinion etc. It is up to the reader to interpret the message of the investigator.

By writing "one", the reader is given the impression that there are more than one behind the statement, which may be the intention of the investigator.

Edvardsson (1996, p.32) points out: "Information sources must without exception be reported for the obvious reason that information shall be able to be checked and exposed to source criticism by other involved parties. (…) A piece of information shall have a personal source or a document source. It shall always be clear what information the investigator stands for." Edvardsson also says that "if it is considered possible that someone would like to check a piece of information, then this information should be provided with a source that is so detailed that the source can directly be sought without extra research."


5.4               Exaggeration strategy

In this strategy, material, events etc. are exaggerated and corrected, unconsciously or consciously, so that the understanding of the author shall be better presented and/or to convince the reader that the understanding of the author is correct.

The exaggeration strategy is an overall strategy with several sub-strategies.

5.4.1            Quantitative strategy

"Quantitative strategy means that the investigation contains a great deal of quantitative text. This has the purpose of trying to get the reader to see the investigation as well done, comprehensive and well developed." (Skog, 1996, p.19)

The strategy is used when there is little information that supports an intervention by an authority. The statements of the authority analysed here do not contain discussions that speak for or against taking custody but instead are uniformly for taking custody. True for all the statements by the authority is that it is primarily negative facts that are presented and documented. The description is devoted mostly to characteristics of the mother, at which she appears to be alone in being the bearer of the problems.

5.4.2 Fabulation strategy

In this strategy, the investigator has an underlying purpose, consciously or unconsciously, that makes him or her present and correct material so that it achieves his or her purpose. The consequence is that the investigator presents information that does not have an objective basis.

The fabulation strategy can occur when the investigator generalises, exaggerates or shifts from making intimations to presenting them as certain facts. In the material examined, the fabulation strategy occurs a number of times when the investigator changed a text as it was being cited. This is expressed through words being removed, added, changed or that sentences have been changed in other ways.

Edvardsson (1993, p.20) defines fabulation as "presenting incorrect or vague, generalising (and sometimes obviously unrealistic) information without giving objective grounds and often in an unobjective, biased context, often also without reporting the source."

5.4.3            Strategy of gradual intensification

This strategy implies a gradual intensification in the text by using a certain way of writing. This may mean that an event is first describe to then make a generalisation. A variation of fabulation is gradual intensification of certainty and information.

5.4.4            Lying strategy

In this strategy, a statement is consciously made although the author knows that it is a lie. Lying is a technique for convincing (cf. Scharnberg, 1996) in which one consciously misleads the listener by e.g. hiding and producing incorrect information.

A fabulated event can lead to lying: "Fabulated versions tend to become increasingly more extreme and comprehensive, as time goes by. The cause derives from the changed adaptation level." (Scharnberg, 1996, p.89)

Lies can be presented in different ways. Anderberg (1993, p.44) makes a point of this. "Of course, conscious lies also occur. There is the clear lie, which consists of saying something when one knows that that is not the case. But being misleading by concealing the truth can be just as effective and appears to some people like a golden middle road between lies and unpleasant truths. The result is often the same."

Deux, Dane and Wrightsman (1993, p.136) refer to Rosnow’s conditions, under which it is easier to believe a lie. The first condition occurs when the listener is generally uncertain. Lies are believable when listeners can use them to lighten ambiguity and create predictability. The other condition occurs when the listener experiences personal worry and is affected by the rumour’s result. The third occurs if the lies contain a kernel of truth, when they are more believable than completed fabulated lies. Finally, it is more probable that rumours will be believed when the listeners’ degree of involvement in the result of the rumour is low. This means that the less that listeners are directly involved in the result, the more probable it is that they will believe a misleading communication and spread it further to others.

5.4.5            Strategy of presenting irrelevant information

This strategy implies that the investigator presents information that does not have relevance for the investigation in question.

The information can be brought forth in order to paint a black picture of the client or to emphasise an understanding of the client and the decisions the investigator wants the investigation to lead to. Objective grounds for the information are most often lacking. It can first seem that the information has no significance for the situation as a whole, but when many such statements are made…

5.4.6            Implicit theory strategy

This strategy uses a theory about something without a scientific basis and presents it as though it were a truth. Edvardsson (1991, p.182) describes different factors (e.g. messiness in the home, being critical toward the social service) that intensify the attention of the social bureau and are included as an argument in investigations, while other factors are hidden in the investigator’s head because they are not considered suitable as an argument. "In socio-psychology, we speak about "implicit personality theories", i.e. implicit, often incorrect ideas of the kind "if characteristic X exists, then characteristic Y also exists". For example, "in the case of social subsidy, immigrant and aggressive, there is danger for the child."

Implicit personality theories are probably used by the investigators in the rhetoric case.


5.4.7            Strategy of exploiting and exaggerating events

Edvardsson (1989, p.14) defines this strategy as "using relatively trivial events, whose significance is exaggerated because the person involved has contact with the social service authority. Otherwise the events would hardly lead to any consequences."

By making an incomplete list and avoiding other factors, interpretations, hypotheses and alternate decisions, only the investigator’s understanding is presented. Edvardsson calls this thought error "imperfecta enumeratio". Other means that an investigator can use to create evidence for his hypothesis is by so called perceptual distortion, i.e. "thinking that one sees and hears what is expected, despite the fact that reality is not so. Black and blue marks can be thought to be larger than they are, statements are understood in a different way than was meant by the speaker, clients are experienced as threatening when they question something etc." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.98)

Edvardsson (1996, p.98) points out that people one-sidedly seek and construct things that speak for a special hypothesis and at the same time withhold conflicting information (confirmation bias).


5.4.8            Strategy of collecting negative historical events of little or no relevance

Jäderqvist et al. (1994, p.28) defines this strategy as "a purposeful search for negative historical material."

Edvardsson (1996, p.51) emphasises "Trivial negatively valued information is often collected that has little to do with the picture as a whole. To oppressively focus on and exaggerate small fragments is not compatible with protecting the whole picture. An important dimension in striving for a whole picture is time dimensions (then-now-future/goal). History should not as in some investigative texts be over-emphasised and allowed to become a hinder."

History should be included in an investigation but its information must then have relevance for the purpose of the investigation. Misleading, irrelevant information that is used to create evidence for the investigator’s opinion of the client does not add anything to the purpose of the investigation.


5.4.9            Strategy of referring to unspecified others

The strategy implies that unspecified "voices" are used to show that there are others who have noticed what one is describing or have the same understanding that one has. This is done without there being objective grounds. Edvardsson (1996b, p.6) writes: "It is nearly trivial to confirm that information that lacks a personal source or lacks corroboration can not be directed toward a person when there is a claim to objectivity and ethics."


5.4.10          Presumptive strategy

Jansson and Rönnbäck (1995) define the presumptive strategy: "one presumes that something is true and then seeks signs and arguments to gain further support for what one presumes." This can mean that the investigator presumes that the client has different personality features, behaves in different ways etc. without giving objective grounds for his presumptions. The information is presented so that the reader can understand it as a truth, which may be the investigator’s purpose.


5.5               Control and power strategy

This strategy implies that the authority claims to control the client’s whole existence and that the authority exploits its power against the client.

Edvardsson (1986, p.10) refers to Minuchin, who presents different criteria for control and exercising power in the family. Minuchin et al. found the following:

  • being caught up together, i.e. clear boundaries do not exist between family members. Nearness is too great and family members become involved in and take responsibility for things that do not have to do with them. Boundaries between individuals are overdrawn. The space that an individual has to live becomes too small. Closed doors and private spheres are not allowed to exist.

  • overprotection, which hinders the development of independence, of competence and of interests and activities outside the safety of the family.

  • rigidity, i.e. when change is necessary, work toward this is thwarted. Effort is made to maintain the status quo.

  • conflict avoidance, e.g. by denial or diverting manoeuvres, when agreement and harmony is threatened. I mention Edvardsson, who says that these criteria are applicable for larger organisations than the family, such as Swedish care and control bureaucracies. Minuchin et al.’s description is called "smiling fascism on the family level" by Edvardsson. He defines "smiling fascism" as "getting people to obey and not make a fuss by using kind methods. The pertinent motivation in the one who is controlling can vary from strongly meaning well to conscious cynicism."

When authorities use total control and power strategies against the client, the client is forced to what Edvardsson calls counterstrategies, "i.e. offensive actions to protect himself or win over the authorities." Examples of counterstrategies on the part of the client in the rhetoric case are her appeal for discontinuance of LVU care.

The control and power strategy has different sub-strategies.

5.5.1            Provocative strategy

Edvardsson (1996, p.131) explains: "Provocation is a method to get adults to say and do things during the investigation period that can be used against them later. How investigators or other representatives of the authority have behaved is not usually included in the text."

A consequence of the provocative strategy is that the person exposed to provocation feels wrongly judged and wrongly treated and thus can become angry, sad etc. This can later be used against them by persons working for the authority.

"The authority’s work approach can seem rather aggressive to many people, both as applies to encroachment and through behaviour and language as well." (Edvardsson, 1989, p.8)

5.5.2            Strategy of trying to accuse the client of lying

This strategy means that persons at the authority make efforts, prepare themselves and exploit their position of power to "expose" the client for having lied without having objective grounds for their actions.

5.5.3            Anti-democratic strategy

The strategy implies that the investigator ignores the client’s democratic rights and instead cites the client’s behaviour as evidence that there are psychic problems, aggression etc.

"The investigator does not have the right in a democratic society to intimate on the grounds of his personal or his group’s values that certain normal variations, e.g. being interested in sports or not liking persons at an authority, would be better or worse than others. In such a case, there is an ideological activity in investigative work." (Edvardsson, 1996, p.13)

5.5.4            Strategy of presenting insulting values and comments

This strategy implies presenting values and comments that are insulting to the client.

Edvardsson (1996, p.14) calls attention to ethical requirements on investigative work: "To write e.g. negative, specially value-charged statements about someone without reporting the basis for them can not be considered acceptable from either an objective or an ethical viewpoint."

"When language is used as a means to influence our feelings – when it is affective – it has a strong effect, almost like physical violence." (Hayakawa, 1973, p.88)

5.5.5            Strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions

This strategy means that persons who support the client’s standpoint are removed by the investigator’s argumentation by restricting their validity. The strategy also means that the investigator seeks evidence that the client is aggressive, has psychic problems, is not understanding etc. in order later to refer to the evidence "found" so that the validity of the client’s opinions is restricted.


5.6               The social authority knows best

Below are described five different strategies through which it appears that the authorities have an understanding about themselves that they are better than the client, that they know best.

Edvardsson (1989, p.14) discovered in his analysis of a case that there was no confession from the authority at all that information was incorrect or that judgements had been incorrect or any comments about contradictions, in spite of the fact that incorrect and doubtful information with resulting incorrect judgements existed in the social investigation. Edvardsson comments that there was no self-criticism from persons at the authority. The infallibility syndrome thus comes out very strongly. Confessing an error would undermine the myth about the wisdom of the authorities.

5.6.1            Strategy of emphasising social authorities’ resources

Jäderqvist (1994, p.15) defined this strategy as "calling attention to the authority’s resources and withholding the client’s own resources."

It can be seen in the material examined that the investigators overlook the client’s resources and instead mention only society’s/the authority’s resources. Edvardsson (1996, p.61) points out that "Making inventories of and mobilising resources are more important than making a comprehensive search for errors and loading investigative texts with negative and trivial information. Discussing resources with the people involved often leads to mobilisation of the resources that the person involved has or their surrounding environment has." Edvardsson (1986b, p.15) concludes that "resource thinking is strongly directed toward external, formal resources, i.e. the social service’s ecology is seen as important in terms of resources. Resources that the individual has and that the individual’s close social environment has are seen as relatively unimportant." "Investigating people’s own resources appears in a persecutory context not at all as important as seeking to document as many weaknesses as possible" (Edvardsson, 1989, p.11)


5.6.2            Strategy of overconfidence in oneself and others

"In this strategy, one has an overconfidence in oneself and an overconfidence in others. One believes in experts without critically examining their statements and evidence." (Jansson and Rönnbäck, 1995)

Ivemyr and Lindwall (1995) comment that, in advertising, experts’ statements are used to give weight to the message. In the same way, according to them, doctors’ and psychologists’ statements are used in LVU investigations to confirm the investigator’s judgement.

Möijer (1989, p. 76) mentions the concept of "belief in authority", i.e. that listeners want to see the speaker as an authority with reliable expert knowledge. That which agrees with the listeners’ own ideas is taken entirely to be true. This probably exists among those who use the strategy of overconfidence in himself and others.

Jansson and Rönnbäck (1995, p.24) call attention to Juslin, who feels that "the phenomenon of overconfidence is showed by an altogether too low firing accuracy compared with the expressed level of self-confidence, e.g. only 70% correct when one was 100% sure, only 65% correct when one was 90% sure etc.


5.6.3            Strategy of exceeding the limits of one’s competence

Jansson and Rönnbäck (1995, p.46) define this strategy as "not keeping oneself to one’s professional area but making statements in other professional areas in which one lacks competence." Edvardsson (1996, p.41) comments "Reliability is also influenced by competence. It happens occasionally that investigators without medical or clinical psychiatric/psychological competence make medical judgements and perhaps even pronounce people sick. An investigator shall be aware of signs of poor health but refer the judgement to professionals with suitable competence."

When an investigator uses a strategy of exceeding the limits of his competence, the strategy also includes the strategy of overconfidence in himself and others. The investigator overestimates his own competence, consciously or unconsciously.

5.6.4            Moralising strategy

The strategy means that the investigator’s implicit morals occur in the text and are used as arguments against the client.

"People living in a democratic society are granted the right to be different, not only uniformly adapted to the openness ideal that some people cherish." (Edvardsson, 1989, p.27)

5.6.5            Strategy of justifying yourself and your actions

This strategy implies that the investigator(s) have realised that they have used stronger measures, actions than what was necessary and thus have tried to justify themselves by saying negative things about the client or blaming the client.

Edvardsson (1993, p.20) states concerning the social welfare worker’s documents "that organisation personnel strongly tend to write in things that justify their own actions. (…) Motivations that have an effect, but are not socially acceptable, are not written in."


5.7               Strategy of stressing one’s own experience

In this strategy, investigators, officials etc. add their own experiences, feelings, arguments etc. in order to convince the reader of his own standpoint. These experiences lack objective grounds. This technique allows for unlimited fabrication of evidence via the use of the investigator’s emotional life.

Edvardsson (1996b) describes two different branches, "Feel-believe-think-experience" culture and gossip culture, which support one another. The gossip culture, with its careless, verbal transferral of information, imprecise language and absence of corroborating information, creates an unreliable foundation. The nature of gossip is also its direction toward fabricating negative information. The "feel-believe-think-experience" culture is not only a question of an unprofessional choice of words. There is often no reasonable objective basis. It is up to one and all in our country to "feel, think" etc. whatever they want, but it is suitable to differentiate between relevant states of things in a family and irrelevant feelings and experiences of an investigator/official. If an investigator, reviewer etc. feels "worry" for a child, this is not a state of affairs in the family but in the person who has given the information. Such comments shall obviously not be written in journals or in social acts other than possibly as a comment about an emotional source of error in the investigative work (although it is never depicted this way).

Edvardsson (1991, p.171) points out that social bureau investigations and testimonials are much characterised by prevailing pseudo-objective ways of writing: "The subjectivity is hidden and attempts are made to get the text to seem as objective and valid as possible, even if there is both doubt, strong feelings and values underneath."

The strategy of stressing one’s own experience has different sub-strategies:


5.7.1            Strategy of making vague references to experiences

This strategy implies that investigators, officials etc. present different experiences to the reader without reporting who has had the experience in question.

Edvardsson (1996, p.32) maintains that "Information sources must without exception be reported for the obvious reason that information shall be able to be checked and exposed to source criticism by others involved. (…) A piece of information shall have a personal source or a document source."

"Information that includes values lacks a truth value, i.e. it can not be determined by the receiver as true or false." (Möijer, 1989, p.32)


5.7.2            Strategy of ascribing an experience to the client

The strategy implies that the investigator/official ascribes the client experiences and feelings without giving an objective basis for this.

The strategy is used by the investigator so that he or she will appear to be understanding and as "evidence" and an explanation for the client’s behaviour.


5.7.3            Strategy of ascribing a negative attitude to the client

This strategy implies that the investigator etc. ascribes the client a negative attitude without giving objective foundations for this, in order to use this against the client later on.


5.8               Interpretational strategy

In this strategy, the investigator presents interpretations without giving an objective basis. The investigator’s interpretation is affected by his or her preconceived ideas, personality, thoughts etc.

"We see wrong, hear wrong, interpret wrong and remember wrong owing to what we already have inside us of preconceived ideas. Feelings, habitual thought patterns etc. and owing to the influence of the social surroundings (group pressure, uniformity, dependency, so called twisted group thinking)." (Edvardsson, 1993a, p.7)

Anderberg (1993, p.40) mentions sources of error in witnesses’ statements. This can be compared with the investigator’s interpretations of events and behaviour in an investigation. He comments that interpretations are steered by previous impressions and that "It is obvious that the error that occurs already when we see and listen and that is later strengthened in interpretation becomes further twisted when it falls into the machinery of the memory." Anderberg explains that the twisting is primarily "intensifications" – the events that are important to the viewer are enlarged – and "evenings-out" – the events that are unimportant in the person’s world of ideas become smaller or disappear completely, although they – objectively seen – can be very important. "These errors take on large proportions when the message is spread further."

One of Edvardsson’s (1996, p.13) basic demands for an investigation is that "conclusions and judgements shall logically fall together with the basic material presented. If the material allows for alternative interpretations, these shall be reported. If reasonable foundations are lacking, conclusions/judgements shall not be given."

The strategy has different sub-strategies:

5.8.1            Strategy of using strategic interpretation

Janssons and Rönnbäck (1995, p.50) define this strategy as "presenting interpretations that suit one’s own opinions and purposes and thus overlook other conceivable and possible interpretations."

Sjöberg (1989) describes different sources of error in human judgements: "It has been shown that people are strongly affected by their own theories and hypotheses. A few hypothetical thoughts early in a piece of work can come to steer completely in the rest of the work so that one shuts oneself off to alternative explanations. Additional information is not viewed seriously or excuses are made for it."

In the strategy of strategic interpretation, there is bolstering (exaggerate of certain conditions) and de-emphasising (reducing the importance of or withholding certain conditions) so that an interpretation on which the investigator has become fixed shall appear to be the right one. In this strategy, investigators also make the thought error of "imperfecta enumeratio", which means that facts, circumstances, objections, interpretations, solutions, resources etc are not fully accounted for.


5.8.2            Strategy of using signs as evidence

This strategy means that the investigator "sees" signs in the client which are used as evidence to show that her hypothesis is correct. This is presented without providing any objective basis.

Edvardsson (1996, p.44) points out: "to claim that there are signs of addiction, anxiety, mental disturbance, problems in relations, sexual abuse etc. without clarifying the evidence is propaganda, not investigation."

Edvardsson (p.89) explains the supporting "principle of addition": "With an interpretation without objective grounds, it is easy to >>show<< anything one desires, e.g immaturity, mental disturbance, bad home environment, sexual abuse, by adding trivial (or imaginary) signs (..) One can find trivial signs for all children and adults, especially if one can influence them through e.g expectation, provocations".

Edvardsson (1991, p.203) states "One popular way of persecuting in many cases is to make higher demands on parents in contact with the social authorities than on other parents. Various, commonly occurring, normal phenomena are turned into signs and evidence that are used against the parents.

5.8.3            Strategy of interpreting everything negatively

Edvardsson (1989, p.8) defines this strategy: "Certain everyday phenomena become, when described in an investigation, negatively interpreted depending on the context and sometimes also depending on the fact that they are diffuse and can be interpreted in different ways.

Since the investigator and the readers are inclined to look for shortcomings in the persons in question, the negative interpretation is often taken for granted.


5.8.4            Negative prognosis strategy

This strategy means that the investigator predicts the client's future in negative terms, and in doing so she obtains an explanation for her own behaviour.

Edvardsson (1989, p.38) points out: "Our prognoses are affected by our system of values. (..) Lack of basic critical consciousness leads to theories and hypotheses becoming dangerous tools of power."

Ivemyr and Lindwall (1995) explain a trick used to persuade people, which is called "begging-the-question", i.e. one assumes what is to be proved. This technique of persuasion would appear to be used by investigators who practise negative prognosis strategy."



Elizabeth Edner is the single mother of Anne Edner, born February 7, 1990. Elizabeth was born and brought up in England. She has an elder daughter named Anita, who was born in 1967. Elizabeth studied at university when Anita was small. In the seventies Elizabeth moved to Sweden, where she married a Swedish man. She worked as an English teacher for various adult educational associations. Elizabeth also studied at university level in Sweden. The couple divorced in the eighties. Elizabeth moved to Göteborg in 1987.

The social welfare service in Lundby came into contact with Elizabeth in connection with the birth of Anne, when the almoner at the Women’s Clinic got in touch with them. The almoner had information that Elizabeth had undergone care because of problems with alcohol, and the staff at the Women’s Clinic understood that Elizabeth lived in isolation.

On her return home, Elizabeth was given a home sister and home therapist who acted in the role of parents. The social welfare service was of the opinion that it was difficult to establish positive and constructive contact with Elizabeth. Anne was taken into immediate care in October 1990, after Elizabeth had been found drunk. Elizabeth and Anne were placed in a family clinic, from which they absconded one week later. Elizabeth made herself unavailable to the social welfare service for three weeks. In December the Social Welfare Board decided that the immediate care should cease.

In January 1991, Anne was taken into immediate care on the basis of an anonymous report. Anne was placed in a temporary foster home. The social welfare service was of the opinion that Elizabeth was in need of comprehensive treatment and was incapable of looking after Anne. According to the decision of the County Administrative Court of 22 February, 1991, Anne was to be taken into care under LVU. In July 1991 Anne’s period of settling into a foster home was started.

1.     Actors in the case of Anne Edner           

Elizabeth Edner

mother of Anne

Leif Ås

father of Anne

Anita Edner

sister of Anne

Berta Bergvall

mother-in-law of Elizabeth

Stella Ström

emergency mother

Ella Röd

mother in the foster home

Kent Röd

father in the foster home

Lena Grön

secretary at KFUM

Jörgen Träd

Pastor in Partille

Sara Isaksson

pre-school teacher

Bryan Morris

Consul General, British Consulate

Klara Sen

registered psychologist, reg. psychotherapist

Ruby Harrold-Claesson

Elizabeth’s lawyer

Maria Såg

home therapist

Gerd Svan

social-welfare secretary, dealing with case

Gudrun Malign

social-welfare secretary, dealing with case

Henrietta Harpun

social-welfare secretary, dealing with case

Martin Flis

1st social-welfare secretary, head of section

Britta Flås

1st social-welfare secretary

Alun Näbb

1st social-welfare secretary

Bo Räfsa

chairman of the social welfare board, Lundby

Irene Saltgurka

vice-chairman of social welfare committee

Babsan Orange

staff, Västans family welfare clinic

Babsan Stel

staff, Västans family welfare clinic

Klara Rödgrön

social welfare secretary, Birkahemmet

Linnéa Klor

psychologist, Birkahemmet

Hedvig Appelgren

therapist at STAC

Frida Blå

almoner, Sahlgrenska Hospital

Lena Kula

foster home secretary

Ola Kantig

social welfare consultant, County

Minna Lön

chief medical officer, Partille adult psychiatric clinic

Jonas Nöjd

senior physician, Sahlgrenska Hospital

Gösta Holst

senior physician, child psychiatric outpatient care

Håkan Elmén

paediatrician, child welfare centre, Lundby



  1. Course of events


Anne was taken into immediate care under LVU, Para. 6. The reason was, according to the social welfare service, that Elizabeth had been found drunk. Anne was placed at Kyrkby children’s home the evening of the same day.


The county administrative court confirmed the immediate care order of Anne.


Anne and Elizabeth were placed at Västans family welfare clinic.


Elizabeth absconded with her daughter from Västans family welfare clinic. The social welfare service requests assistance from the police.


Decision taken to cancel immediate care of Anne under LVU, Para. 6.


Anne is taken into immediate care under LVU, Para. 6, and transferred to Birka children’s home. Anne is taken into care for the reason stated in the report to the emergency social welfare office, Dec. 28, 1990.


Anne is placed in a temporary foster home.


The county administrative court consented to the request for LVU for Anne. Elizabeth and her lawyer appealed against the decision.


The administrative court of appeal upholds the decision of the county administrative court.


Anne is placed in a foster home, with the married couple Röd in Fjärås.


The social committee decides, with the support of Para, 14, clause 2, that the visitations between Elizabeth and Anne should be regulated.

February 1992

Elizabeth requests that the decision be revoked or petitions to have increased right of visitation with Anne. The request is turned down and Elizabeth appeals to the county administrative court.


The county administrative court does not approve the request.


Official statement with report on regulation of right of visitation according to LVU, Para. 14, clause 2, and report on decision not to reveal Anne’s place of residence to Elizabeth.


The social welfare committee decides to uphold the decision concerning the regulation of the right of visitation according to Para. 14 and not to reveal Anne’s place of residence to Elizabeth.


The country administrative court does not consent to Elizabeth’s appeal that the regulation of the right of visitation should be reconsidered. Elizabeth appeals to the administrative court of appeal.

May 1993

The social welfare service considers the transfer of guardianship of Anne to the parents in the foster home.

1993-02-19 Elizabeth’s appeal is not approved. Elizabeth then appeals to the administrative court of appeal.


The administrative court of appeal decides that visitations shall take place once a month for a period not exceeding 6 hours.

November 1993

Elizabeth requests that visitations be changed to comprise 3 hours every other week. The request was denied. Elizabeth does not appeal against the decision.

July 1994.

Elizabeth requests that care according to LVU with regard to Anne should cease.

13 July 1994

The chairman of the social welfare committee, Irene Saltgurka, decides to alter the regulation of the right of visitation between Elizabeth and Anne. From once a month 6 hours to one period of 3 hours every other week. Elizabeth appeals against the decision.

September 1994

The social welfare committee decides to refuse Elizabeth’s request concerning the revocation of care according to LVU as regards Anne.


At a meeting the Lundby urban district council commissions the social administration to investigate the conditions for transfer of guardianship.


One committee member has reservations concerning the decision of the social welfare committee. He is of the opinion that the minutes have been altered and that he has never approved of any transfer of care.

December 1994

The country administrative court rejects Elizabeth’s appeal for the extension of the right of visitation.

March 1995

Elizabeth requests an increased number of visitations with Anne.


The family home secretary when visiting the foster home: "We talk about it perhaps being time to open up? We’ll come back to this - not directly negative according to the family" page from Anne’s records.


Elizabeth submits a request through her legal representative Harrold-Claesson, LLM, a request concerning termination of care according to LVU regarding Anne, or alternatively, an increased number of visitations between Elizabeth and Anne.


Official statement concerning Elizabeth’s request for termination of care according to LVU regarding Anne.


Lundby urban district council, social welfare committee, decides to refuse Elizabeth’s request concerning the termination of care according to LVU regarding Anne.


The county administrative court decides not to consider the appeal in the right of visitation issue as the social welfare committee had reached a new decision on the right of visitation issue on 27 November. The county administrative court decides to reject Elizabeth’s appeal concerning the termination of care according to LVU regarding Anne. Elizabeth appeals against the decision of the country administrative court to the administrative court of appeal.


Official report containing declaration to the administrative court of appeal.


Here follow the texts from the investigations examined to demonstrate the persecution strategies I have found. Other documents are also cited to clarify various strategies. It is obvious from the text what documents are meant. The quotations are italicised, and the headings of the official reports are given to make them easier to read. Several of the quotations occur repeatedly throughout the documents, and these are only mentioned once to avoid repetition.

  1. Official report 1990-11-28

The social welfare committee, social welfare secretary Gudrun Malign, applies for care under Para. 1, second clause and Para. 2, LVU in respect of Anne Edner.

This investigation comprises 14 pages, plus four certificates/references. The official report lacks any explicit statement of the issues at hand and testing of hypotheses. The subjective interpretation of the investigator is confused with the basic data so that the interpretations appear to be facts. The perspective of the client is poorly satisfied. No for-or-against testing of different measures is done. There is no analysis of resources, and only one care alternative is given. There are no source references for a large proportion of the facts.

The investigator’s opinion of Elizabeth comes out clearly in the text through the rhetorical strategy, which is also one of the general strategies in this investigation. The investigator has an eloquence that affects the reader in the direction she desires.

Another strategy that appears in the text is the strategy of making the client seem pathological. Elizabeth is described as aggressive, isolated from the world around her, etc., without the investigator describing when this has occurred. The investigator makes use of the negative prognosis strategy to emphasise that the stated care alternative is the right one.

"Current situation"

"She pointed out that she looked after her daughter in the best way and gave her priority before cleaning and so on."

The passage contains the strategy of ignoring the perspective of the client. The investigator makes it sound here as if what Elizabeth says is not particularly interesting. It is a disparaging abbreviation of a statement.

"On this occasion Elizabeth Edner was comparatively easy to reason with, but was very anxious and found it difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time."

In this passage there is an implication that is difficult to see. The conclusion that the reader makes is that when Elizabeth is relatively easy to reason with she is very anxious and unconcentrated. What is Elizabeth like when she is difficult to reason with? The strategies of insinuation and of making the client seem pathological appear together. The passage also contains the positive-negative argumentation strategy, shown by the investigator first writing a positive statement about Elizabeth and then following this up with two negative statements about Elizabeth. The reinforcement strategy is apparent in such a word as "very".

"When the investigator came to Elizabeth Edner’s room at the children’s home, she was sitting in the child’s cot and her daughter Anne Edner sat in the junior bed. This situation affected the investigator who was somewhat shocked. The investigator asked the mother if she and the child had changed places, but got no answer."

This information has nothing to do with the investigation but is included to show something about Elizabeth, through the irrelevant feeling of the investigator. The strategies of presenting irrelevant information and of stressing one’s own experience are found. The investigator commits a logical error when she mixes in her own feeling (affected, shocked) in an objective investigation, or in the analysis of the family situation. The technique permits unlimited fabrication of evidence by utilising the investigator’s feelings.

"During the conversation Elizabeth’s mood changed in accordance with the subject of conversation."

This is an irrelevant fact. What does the investigator want to show? The comment is meaningless on account of its vagueness. The investigator is running a great risk of perceptual distortion.

"The investigator contacted the social consultant Ola Kantig on the County Council to discuss the matter of 7 Nov. 1990. Ola Kantig thought it was an insidious situation if Anne Edner were at home with her mother over the weekend."

This passage contains the strategies of stressing one’s own experiences and of presenting irrelevant information. The language is vague and unprofessional. By the first sentence the investigator implies that there is something of importance to discuss.

Elizabeth is informed that Anne might be taken to a temporary foster home:

"Elizabeth Edner was informed of the two alternatives. She reacted very strongly to the possibility of the child being placed in a temporary foster home. Elizabeth was upset and desperate. She barricaded herself in her room with the child for a while."

A little further down comes:

"Elizabeth Edner was very upset and aggressive on these occasions, the cause of which being that she was completely sure that she would be going home with her daughter Anne over the weekend. When the alternative, placing her in a temporary foster home, was presented to her, she reacted strongly and hardly dared let the care assistant hold the child for a short while."

These two passages come from the same page in the investigation and describe the same situation, but the investigator describes that Elizabeth reacts in two different ways. How much does the investigator’s description agree with the facts? There is no admission on the part of the investigator that she herself is involved and provokes Elizabeth’s reactions. "Upset" and "reacted strongly" are repeated, which implies repetitive strategy. The passages contain the provocative strategy. The investigator takes advantage of Elizabeth’s reactions. If Elizabeth had not reacted "strongly", it would probably have been cited as a sign of her not caring about the child. The reinforcement strategy and the strategy of making the client seem pathological are evident from words such as "very strongly", "very upset", "completely sure ?" , "she reacted strongly", "hardly" and "a short while".

"Elizabeth Edner also contacted the children’s doctor Håkan Elmén whose support she tried to gain by asking him to prevent a possible separation of mother and child."

The implication is that it is Elizabeth who made Håkan Elmén wish to prevent a separation of mother and daughter, and that Elmén is therefore partial when he gives Elizabeth his support.

"The material existing so far on Elizabeth Edner indicated that the child ran the risk of suffering because the mother did not provide adequate care in certain respects. There was, however, no suspicion of Elizabeth Edner currently abusing alcohol."

The passage contains the vagueness strategy, the investigator does not explain what material or what was meant by "certain respects" - the reader has to work that out for himself. The passage is pathologising regarding Elizabeth. The last sentence contains no-failing argumentation, which hints that there has been a reason for suspecting Elizabeth. Why point out something that does not exist?

"The previous evening, Wednesday, 14 November, 1990, Elizabeth Edner had been home in her flat on some errand. She returned around 11 p.m. accompanied by a lady who spoke English. Elizabeth Edner seemed calm and stable when her companion left."

The information is irrelevant. The investigator makes use of the uncertainty epithet "seemed" in a positive statement. The passage contains the strategy of presenting irrelevant information.

"Elizabeth’s Edner’s contact with the social welfare service in the Lundby urban district administration"

"The staff at the Women’s Clinic were uncertain of Elizabeth Edner’s capacity to care for her daughter as she seemed to be in poor mental condition. She had little chance of receiving relief with practical tasks and having a rest, as she appeared to live in isolation."

What does "staff" mean? The source is not mentioned. The strategy of stressing one’s own experience is revealed by "appeared" and "seemed to be". Note the technique that the piece of information "uncertain" is based in its turn of something that "seemed to be". The feeling of uncertainty forms a special case of stressing one’s own experience strategy.

"The social welfare secretary Gerd Svan never gained any normal contact with Elizabeth Edner. Elizabeth Edner experienced the situations when the social welfare secretary was in her home as threatening and had fits of aggression against the social welfare secretary so that it was impossible to carry on a normal conversation."

The passage contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological and the reinforcement strategies, apparent in words such as "never", "was impossible", "fit" and "normal conversation". Elizabeth stands out as strange and abnormal. The strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error is evident. Alternative explanations, for example, that the personal chemistry between the investigator and Elizabeth does not function or that the investigator provokes Elizabeth’s behaviour, are not considered. How does the investigator know that Elizabeth experienced the visits as threatening? The strategy of ascribing an experience to the client is revealed. The investigator generalises in that she writes "the situations" - evidence of the vagueness strategy.

"The social welfare secretary Gerd Svan, who was an investigator in the matter earlier, has not been able to establish normal treatment contact with Elizabeth Edner. The reason for this has been that Elizabeth Edner has felt that the social welfare secretary has not been a support but a threat to her integrity and independence. Elizabeth Edner has perceived advice and tips from both the social welfare secretary and the home therapist as reprimands and has then reacted with aggressiveness."

The passage contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological, which is revealed by the strategy of making the client seem peculiar, the strategy of ascribing an experience to the client, vagueness, and by the use of the term "aggressiveness". This results in Elizabeth appearing aggressive, abnormal, and as a person who cannot cope with accepting a friendly action such as "advice and tips". The vagueness strategy is apparent in the investigator’s use of the standard term "aggressiveness" with its pathological connotations. The action of the social welfare secretary is presented as positive by words such as "support", "advice and tips", and the reason for the situation is laid at Elizabeth’s door and not at Gerd Svan’s.

"The social welfare secretary felt that the home visits to Elizabeth Edner were injurious to the child, as Elizabeth Edner was aggressive towards the social welfare secretary. This led to the social welfare secretary reducing the number of home visits to a minimum."

The passage contains the strategy of stressing one’s own experience; the feelings of the social welfare secretary are not objective grounds, which means that objective grounds and precision are lacking. It may, for example, have been the home visits that were injurious to Anne, not Elizabeth’s protective behaviour against the social welfare secretary. That the visits could be perceived as aggressive is not pointed out; the social welfare secretary commits the logical error "the doctrine of no effect". What does Elizabeth is "aggressive" mean? Both the vagueness strategy and the strategy of making the client seem pathological occur. By pointing out that the social welfare secretary leaves, she does right and Elizabeth wrong. There is a hint that Elizabeth should understand that she is injuring the child - the moralising strategy and the scapegoat strategy, in other words.

"Conversations with Elizabeth Edner"

"The reason for the planned home visit was the report Lena Grön had made on Oct. 8, 1990."

This information contains the fabulation strategy; an arbitrary stepping up of earlier information occurs. Earlier in the official report the investigator writes that Lena Grön had contacted the social welfare secretary at the child welfare clinic to make an enquiry about Elizabeth’s chance of obtaining help with household tasks. A report and an enquiry are not the same thing.

"During the conversations the investigator has had with Elizabeth Edner, she has been, by turns, ready to discuss and hostile towards the social welfare secretary and others around her. Her lability in these situations may be a sign of the pressure she has experienced when she has felt herself to be unfairly treated and powerless in the face of her daughter being taken into care. It has been difficult to prevent Elizabeth Edner’s aggressive attacks and get her to listen to the investigator’s arguments."

The suppression strategy is apparent in that there is no precise definition of what the investigator means by "arguments". The strategy of attributing an experience to the client is revealed by the words "pressure she has experienced" and "felt herself". The situations referred to are not defined; what does the investigator mean by "others around her"? The vagueness strategy is apparent. The passage contains the strategies of making the client seem pathological and making her criticism seem pathological, which is shown by the description of Elizabeth as labile and so aggressive and hostile to everybody that it is impossible to speak with her.


"According to the report from Västans family care clinic, Elizabeth Edner does not have fixed times for food and rest for Anne. Elizabeth breast-feeds Anne even when she is not hungry but also to comfort her when she is fretful for other reasons."

The moralising strategy is apparent in that the investigator compares Elizabeth’s breast-feeding with her own implicit ideal, and provides no scientific support for it whatsoever.

The investigator and the writers of the reference use the implicit theory strategy: children should be breast-fed only at fixed times, and for that reason Elizabeth is treating Anne incorrectly.

The investigator uses the strategy of gradual intensification. In the report from Västan’s family care clinic it says: "She is breast-fed frequently and maybe not only when she is hungry but also when she is fretful for other reasons". The investigator has deleted the marker of uncertainty "perhaps" and added "to comfort her". From an objective point of view, the text could just as easily been written so that Elizabeth received approval for good care of the child.

"Elizabeth Edner has mental problems that are expressed in the form of depression and easily aroused anxiety. Elizabeth Edner is very sensitive to criticism and often experiences that people have a negative attitude towards her, according to Dr. Morgan at the Partille adult psychiatric clinic. In recent years Elizabeth Edner has not been treated for the mental problems but, according to Dr. Morgan, Elizabeth Edner has felt that she has failed in life, and then the mental problems have been intensified."

Dr. Morgan writes in his medical certificate; "Pat. has been troubled by depression and easily aroused anxiety since adolescence". Morgan does not write anything about "mental problems that are expressed" in different forms. Here the investigator makes use of the fabulation strategy and the strategy of gradual intensification to reinforce the certificate’s inference of a pathological condition. Morgan writes: "often experiences people as having a negative attitude towards her"; the investigator changes as having to "that have". Morgan then writes: "During our contact 1986 to 1987 the pat. was often depressed. She thought that life felt as if it had ended and that she had failed. Her mental problems were intensified." The investigator interprets the text in her own way, and gets it to sound as Elizabeth thinks that she has failed in life and that is why the mental problems have become worse. Repetitive strategy is apparent in that the phrase "mental problems" is repeated three times.

"Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour in the situations in which she feels under pressure is characterised by fits of aggression when she is so upset and occupied with her own thoughts that it is difficult to have any conversational contact with her at all. The social welfare secretary Gerd Svan has experienced such situations on her home visits, when she has concluded that it was not meaningful to try starting any conversation with Elizabeth Edner."

What situations are meant? There is lack of precision and the vagueness strategy is evident. The passage contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological, apparent in that the social welfare secretary has concluded that it is not meaningful to talk with Elizabeth, because Elizabeth has fits of aggression, is upset and egocentric and is difficult to gain contact with. We find the strategy of ascribing the client an experience without stating any grounds in facts. The strategy of making the client’s criticism seem pathological is apparent in the way the investigator dismisses Elizabeth’s criticism, pleading as an excuse that Elizabeth is too "aggressive".

"The investigator has seen Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour during these outbreaks of aggression and not succeeded in getting her to listen to reason. It has then concerned the taking into care of her daughter Anne and a possible separation of mother and child."

The passage makes the client seem pathological; "outbreaks of aggression" may be a question of a reaction that suits the situation. The vagueness strategy is apparent. This is the investigator’s assessment of behaviour. Generalising and evaluative concepts such as, e.g., aggressiveness, should be replaced by the actual state of things. The investigator disregards her own impact, "the doctrine of no influence" (cf. Edvardsson, 1996) probably describes the investigator’s way of thinking.

"The pattern in Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour is, in the investigator’s view, that her negative attitude to people often results in every detail stated being understood by Elizabeth Edner as criticism or accusations. Elizabeth gets upset about what she understands as criticism and then becomes so aggressive and ruthless in the way she expresses herself that she forgets Anne in the meantime."

The strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error is apparent as the investigator does not consider alternative interpretations of Elizabeth’s behaviour, but draws the conclusion that it is Elizabeth’s personality that makes her react as she does, and that it cannot depend on the situation.

In the investigator’s conclusions the strategy of making the client seem pathological is also seen. How does the investigator know that Elizabeth has a negative attitude towards people? Here we find the strategies of ascribing a negative attitude to the client and ascribing an experience to the client.

The above statement has no basis in fact, since there are no details of the events referred to, and the vagueness strategy is apparent. The negative synonym strategy is evident in that the investigator writes both "aggressive" and "ruthless". The generalisation strategy is evident when the investigator writes "the pattern in Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour is".

"Elizabeth Edner had problems with alcohol in the eighties which were very serious at times so that she needed treatment. She was treated under LVM (The Care of Alcoholics and Drug Abusers Act) for two months in 1986 at Scheléegården for her alcoholism."

This is mentioned earlier under the heading "in conclusion there are the following facts about Elizabeth Edner", and is an example of repetitive strategy. The strategy of presenting irrelevant information is evident, as the historical information is irrelevant in the context and is included just to remind and influence the reader. The reinforcement strategy is apparent in the words "very serious". In the last sentence in the passage the word "alcoholism" is repeated and built on - the full-stop could have been put after "Scheléegården".

"Elizabeth Edner has not expressed any insight into how her intoxicated state the day Anne was taken into care had a negative effect on her daughter."

The strategy of calling attention to non-existent facts, i.e. of mentioning behaviour that did not occur, seems here to have arisen from an underlying conception on the part of the investigator.

"During the period of investigation up to 15 Nov., 1990, when ‘Elizabeth Edner absconded from Västan, the investigator was of the opinion that Elizabeth Edner was not prone to drinking alcohol in order to become intoxicated."

What does the investigator mean? The passage is difficult to understand and leaves the reader to interpret the content himself. This is evidence of the non-deficiency argumentation strategy.

"Elizabeth Edner has mental problems that are expressed mainly as easily aroused anxiety and great sensitivity to criticism. She has a negative attitude to the people around her (…) The investigator’s opinion is that Anne Edner runs the risk of being harmed by Elizabeth Edner having mental problems that lead to Elizabeth shutting out other adults from her life."

The investigator is making use of rhetorical strategy together with the strategy of exceeding the limits of her competence. The investigator is not qualified to draw the conclusions she does, with its negative prognosis strategy. The strategy of overconfidence in oneself and the strategy of ascribing the client a negative attitude can be seen. The passage is an example of the strategy of making the client seem pathological. The generalisation strategy is revealed in that the investigator writes "has", "is", etc.

"Elizabeth Edner’s instability may affect her relationship with her daughter in that Anne Edner may come to lead a life of insecurity and uncertainty as the mother is incapable of meeting the different demands that the child will make as she grows up. Anne Edner needs to be given the opportunity to make social contact with adults outside the family and also other children."

Every child needs to be given the opportunity to make social contacts. Instead, the investigator should have pointed to concrete situations that make it impossible for Elizabeth to provide social contacts. The rhetorical and pathologisation strategies are found here. The passage reveals the strategy overconfidence in oneself and others and the strategy of exceeding the limits of one’s competence. The investigator writes "Elizabeth’s Edner’s instability" .. in what respect .. in relation to the investigator? The generalisation strategy is evident. The negative synonym strategy is seen in the words the investigator writes: "insecurity" and "uncertainty" - the second word does not add anything to the facts. The passage is an example of the negative prognosis strategy, since the investigator uses a "may" technique for making negative prognoses, focusing on negative future possibilities.

"Anne Edner also runs the risk of being damaged emotionally because the mother Elizabeth Edner shows low/little tolerance towards people in general and easily withdraws and isolates herself when she feels she is being criticised."

This is the investigator’s view, and the strategy overconfidence in oneself and others is evident. The negative prognosis strategy is seen when the investigator exceeds her authority by claiming that Elizabeth has low tolerance towards people in general, and that this constitutes a risk to Anne. The investigator contradicts herself when she, time and time again, writes that Elizabeth is aggressive, eccentric and looks for support from people she does not know, and then, as in the above passage, that Elizabeth easily withdraws and isolates herself when she feels that she is being criticised. Furthermore, the basic frequency in the general population of withdrawal on being criticised should be significant.

The repetitive strategy is evident in the passage "assessment" as the word "risk" occurs in eight different contexts, and the word "runs" occurs five times.

  1. Official report 1991-01-31

This official report is an application for a compulsory care order for Anne Edner. The investigation comprises 18 pages, plus a reference and four statements/reports. The official in charge is Gudrun Malign.

There is no explicit statement of the problem, and for and against testing of alternative solutions does not occur. The perspective of the client is poorly satisfied.

The vagueness and insinuation strategies come out clearly in this investigation. The investigator lapses into arguments that contain little fact but a great deal of her own opinions. Quantitative strategy is evident in that the investigator repeats much from the previous investigation and in that irrelevant information has been included.

"Present situation"

"The investigator had already booked a time for a home visit to Elizabeth Edner for January 2, 1991, but had received a written message that she would not be home that day. However, the investigator made two attempts to carry out the home visit with the section manager Martin Flis on that day but without success."

Why were two attempts made to carry out the home visit when Elizabeth had sent a message that she would not be at home? The passage contains the total control and power strategy and the strategy of trying to accuse the client of lying.

"On January 3, 1991 the investigator contacted Ramona Miles, who helped the reporter to make the actual emergency report regarding Anne Edner’s home conditions. Miles states that the reporter said that Elizabeth Edner breastfed Anne for short periods even though she was not sober. There was no food at home and the reporter bought a pizza and was worried what the mother would do when the child cried."

On a supplementary page marked Elizabeth, the following is to be found concerning the conversation with Miles: "He was very upset about the conditions in the home for the sake of the child. Elizabeth was not sober and nursed the child for periods of 30 seconds, thought it was enough (…) The man changed the child’s nappy as he thought it was needed, he had by the way never changed a child’s nappy before. The man was mostly worried about what the mother would do when the child cried when she herself was not sober and very agitated. He was afraid that she would "go beyond the limit" (…) There was no food at home so the man bought a pizza, which the child was allowed to eat."

I refer to Bo Edvardsson (1996, p.67), "If it is obvious that a report is not based on fact, it should be written off. It is important that a report be carefully documented and that the ones who make it are requested to give precise details and descriptions of the situation.(…) No value can be ascribed to information in anonymous reports until they have been checked in another reliable way.(…) The past and present relationship of the reporter to the reportee should been enquired into as a matter of routine to reveal if there is any disqualification or hidden motive."

The investigator makes use of the strategy of gradually suppressing details when she rewrites the reporter’s version for the official report, and commits the logical error of taking things out of context.

The strategy of ignoring the perspective of the client is found here in that Elizabeth’s version is not included in the official report. Great importance was attached to this report in the decision made on January 3, 1991 about taking Anne into immediate, compulsory care.

"The material so far available on Elizabeth Edner implied that the child was at risk because the mother lacked in caring for her daughter in some respects."

The vagueness strategy comes out in that the passage has no precise details at all, which also makes it irrelevant information. The passage does not have any connection at all with the rest of the text in the paragraph "present situation". The insinuation strategy is seen in that the investigator hints at something that the reader has to interpret for himself.

"Conversation with Elizabeth Edner"

"The investigator presented the causes for concern regarding Anne Edner’s development. Elizabeth Edner’s unstable mental health and the social isolation that Elizabeth Edner is understood to be living in. Elizabeth Edner appears to have an over-strong symbiotic bond with her daughter considering Anne’s age, and it can have an unfavourable effect on Anne Edner’s emotional development."

The passage contains rhetorical strategy, revealed in the words "causes for concern", "unstable mental health", "an over-strong symbiotic bond", "unfavourable".. "emotional development", which together are well formulated to get the reader to conclude that it must be true. Nothing concrete is said about what is referred to. The investigator is exceeding the limits of her competence when she makes the diagnosis about a symbiotic bond between mother and daughter. Anne was one year old. The strategy of making the client seem pathological is apparent in the passage through words such as "causes for concern", "unstable mental health", "social isolation", etc. The strategy of making vague references to experiences is seen when the investigator writes "is understood".


"It is likely that Anne Edner runs the risk of being harmed by the mother Elizabeth Edner’s mental instability, her low tolerance in relation to other adults and the risk of her abusing alcohol when she feels under stress."

The passage makes Elizabeth out to be pathological. The investigator repeats what was previously written in the official report, by making use of the negative prognosis strategy. The investigator makes use of rhetorical strategy to persuade the reader to believe what she writes. What the inattentive reader does not notice is that the investigator uses three markers of uncertainty. "likely runs the risk" does not really say very much, and the same applies to the statements "risk of being harmed" and "risk of her abusing alcohol when she feels under stress." What is meant by a "risk" that is based on another "risk"? The text is unfathomable.

"It has been established that Elizabeth Edner has been inebriated on three occasions, 29October, 1990, 27 December, 1990 and 3 January 1991, that her condition could have damaged the health and development of Anne Edner. These situations are the basis for the immediate care order that has been carried out."

The passage contains the vagueness strategy, which is revealed by the lack of precision regarding the situations meant, and by the fact that the sources of information are not given. An inattentive reader probably does not bother to check the facts, and thus cannot discover the lying strategy that the investigator uses. The most recent decision regarding taking in charge was made on 3 January, 1991. In the report dated 7 January 1991, the investigator writes: "On 4 January 1991 the pastor in Partille Jörgen Träd rings to the investigator and tells her that he was with Elizabeth Edner the evening before. (…) Edner was inebriated but was able to walk according to Träd (…). It is judged on the grounds of the on duty report 28 December 1990 and Träd’s observations 3 January 1991 that there was a considerable risk of Anne Edner’s health and development being damaged in the home. With the above background the decision to issue an immediate care order according to paragraph 6 was made on 3 January 1991."

The investigator refers to Träd’s observations as if they were the reason for the care order even though she did not receive the information until the day after the decision had been made about the immediate care order.

"there are clear signs that Elizabeth Edner is not capable of handling stress situations and daily setbacks in a constructive way."

What "clear signs"? The passage is imprecise and makes the client seem pathological. The vagueness strategy is apparent. The investigator generalises; on what factual grounds does the investigator base her statement?

"With regard to the emotional relationship between Elizabeth and Anne Edner, there is a strong and warm contact between them. What appears strange is that Elizabeth appears to a large extent to use the closeness and bodily contact with her daughter for the sake of her own security. Because of this strong bond, it has not been possible to gradually tone down this fundamental and early symbiosis for the child, which is normal for a child in the second year of its life. It is probable that the strong symbiotic bond between mother and daughter can suppress Anne Edner’s ability to express her own needs to the mother."

Here are found the strategies of positive-negative argumentation and of making the client seem pathological. The first part is positive but is then followed by the suggestion that Elizabeth uses their relationship for her own needs. The investigator’s conclusions exceed the limits of her competence, since what the investigator suggests has not appeared in any certificate. On what factual grounds does the investigator base her conclusion? The investigator makes an interpretation without any concrete basis. The passage also contains rhetorical strategy. The reinforcement strategy is shown in such words as "strange", "to a large extent", "strong" and "probable".

The investigator uses the negative prognosis strategy when she asserts that Elizabeth and Anne’s relationship "can" suppress Anne’s ability to express her needs to her mother; there is no factual basis. By using the word "appears", the investigator makes uses of the strategy of making vague reference to someone’s experience.

"lack of routines for food and rest is probably a sign of Elizabeth Edner’s emotional lability, and this impairs the child’s chance of a harmonious daily rhythm."

The investigator is exceeding the limits of her competence when she makes use of the strategy of strategic interpretation and the exaggeration strategy. An example of another possible interpretation is that the infant Anne does not "allow" routines when she is at Västan’s Family Care Centre. The passage has a pathologising tone with respect to Elizabeth.

"Care plan"

"As regards Elizabeth Edner’s attitude towards care in an institution with her daughter, there are conflicting messages, since she says that most of all she wants to be with her daughter and that it does not matter where they are. On the other hand, Elizabeth Edner says that she doesn’t like being in institutions."

The investigator’s interpretation of "conflicting messages" has the effect of making the client seem pathological and provides fabrication of evidence. The only thing that Elizabeth is reported to have said about care in an institution is that she "she doesn’t like being in institutions". It is not obvious that Elizabeth included the institution in the first utterance referred to.

7.3 Official report 1991-04-08

This official statement is a report to the administrative court of appeal in respect of an appeal submitted by Elizabeth Edner and her representative. The investigation comprises 19 pages, plus five appendices containing official report from 310191, three certificates from various people, and an opinion. Gudrun Malign was the official in charge of the investigation.

The perspective of the client consists of a negative description of Elizabeth’s background, and there is no description of Elizabeth’s resources. The problem analysis done by the investigator is slanted so as to reinforce the investigator’s viewpoint. It contains irrelevant, negative facts about Elizabeth, and the investigator’s subjective, emotionally charged interpretations. Criticism of the sources of information is lacking, and there is no presentation of the issues in question.

The general strategies are collecting negative historical events of little or no relevance, rhetorical strategy and quantitative strategy. The investigator launches into long arguments where she makes use of, i.a., the strategies positive-negative argumentation, making the client seem pathological, negative reinforcement and the rhetorical strategy.

"Elizabeth Edner’s background"

When Elizabeth appealed against the judgement of the county administrative court to the administrative court of appeal, the social committee made a counter-move with the help of the social-welfare service. The investigator introduces a supplementary background description, 2½ pages long, where "the information is mainly derived from the material that formed the basis of an application from the county administration in 1986 for care according to the Care of Alcoholics and Drug Abusers Act for Elizabeth Edner". On these pages there appear trivial facts about Elizabeth that may have been included in order to denigrate Elizabeth. Here the investigator includes 11-year-old facts without stating the source or indicating the person/s who provided the information. Here we find the strategy of collecting negative historical events of little or no relevance.

"Elizabeth Edner reacts strongly to alcohol and has shown pathological alcohol reactions. She has completely changed her personality, become aggressive, gives vent to her feelings and lost all control. She has behaved in a destructive way and broken things." Nothing is said about who supplied this information, or where it came from; the vagueness strategy is used. "completely" and "all" are signs of fabulation and constitute a negative reinforcement strategy. The strategy of collecting negative historical events is found.

"On several occasions there were scenes in Elizabeth Edner’s flat when she broke window panes and other objects. The police were summoned to her flat on several occasions. In the autumn of 1985 Elizabeth Edner was prosecuted for drawing a knife on a man."

I ask myself here what does several occasions mean and what occasions are referred to? The wording is vague, no details are given. The strategies of presenting irrelevant information and collecting negative historic information are found.

"During this period Elizabeth Edner rang round to the hospital, the social welfare board, the social emergency service, the police and even at night to the home of Ward physicians and other staff at the hospital."

These are old, irrelevant facts; here are the strategies of presenting irrelevant information and collecting negative historic information.

"Elizabeth Edner tried to commit suicide with the help of tablets and was driven to The Eastern Hospital’s ICU in a state of tablet and alcohol intoxication. In that situation the health service declared that it had exhausted their possibilities of giving Elizabeth Edner the required treatment."

Who made this statement on behalf of the health service? There is no reference to sources. The vagueness strategy is seen here in that no details are given.

Elizabeth submitted a complaint about the way her case was handled by the social-welfare service in Partille to the county administration in Göteborg and Bohus county.

"The county administration examined the handling of the case but decided 23.03.1988 to dismiss the case without taking measures. In their decision, the country administration mentions that "the difficulties the staff on the social welfare board had had in their contact with Elizabeth Edner had also occurred in the country administration’s contact with her."

Here the investigator takes up information about Elizabeth from before the time Anne was born and holds her to blame - the collecting historic negative information strategy. The statement implies that many "others", not only the social-welfare service but also the county administration, think that Elizabeth causes problems - the strategy of referring to unspecified others. The investigator applies the strategies of presenting irrelevant information and of exploiting and exaggerating events.

"Elizabeth Edner has lived in Göteborg since 1987. As far as is known, she has not had any contact with psychiatric care during this time. There was, however, very limited information about how Elizabeth Edner’s relationships have been during this period."

Here the investigator hints that even if there is no information that Elizabeth did not have contact with psychiatric care, Elizabeth probably had problems all the same. The word "however" is especially indicative - the strategy of exaggeration is found.

"Present situation"

"Linnéa Klor and Rödgrön declared that they felt that altogether Elizabeth Edner’s reactions during the period of investigation and in the past week were indications that she was too mentally unstable to be able to completely involve herself emotionally with her child, even in the long run. They were of the opinion that Elizabeth Edner feels extremely strong anxiety on certain days, and then she does not see her child’s needs but is blinded in her anxiety."

There is no factual basis for this. The experiences of the social secretary and the psychologist do not form a factual basis for deciding whether Elizabeth can take care of Anne - here we have the strategies of stressing one’s own experiences and of making the client seem pathological. The passage contains the strategy of using signs as evidence, no alternative interpretations are considered, for instance, that Elizabeth is under stress during the investigation period. The investigator commits a methodological error by ignoring the time before the investigation - what was Elizabeth like then? The passage also contains the exaggeration strategy, as evident in the words "extremely", "too" and "blinded". The negative prognosis strategy comes out when the investigator writes "in the long run". The last sentence contains a triple minus and rhetorical strategy (extremely strong anxiety", "does not see her child’s needs", "blinded in her anxiety".)

"This behaviour of setting fire to things in the home worried Rödgrön and Klor further when it was repeated for the third time."

Klor’s and Rödgrön’s anxiety does not form a factual basis, which means that it is irrelevant information. The strategy of stressing one’s own experiences is seen in the text. No details are given of the situations in question.

"To be encouraged in her emotional and social development, Anne Edner must be associated with adult deputy parents in a calm and harmonious home environment. (..) Elizabeth first needs to undergo profound therapy to be able to take care of her child in a satisfactory way."

The passage contains rhetorical strategy and the strategy of making the client seem pathological. The word "must" makes it appear that it is a matter of urgency to take Anne from Elizabeth, otherwise bad things will happen - the strategy of insinuation.

The insinuating strategy also appears in the way the investigator implies that Elizabeth cannot offer Anne a "calm and harmonious home environment". It is not the investigator’s task to predict whether Elizabeth needs therapy or not - this is the therapy strategy.

"Klor and Rödgrön also thought that Elizabeth Edner was in such a poor mental state that it was necessary for a doctor to assess whether she required hospital care."

So the investigator contacted a doctor on call, who judged that Elizabeth was not psychotic and therefore did not write out a certificate saying that Elizabeth was in need of institutional psychiatric care. This occurrence is an example of the total control and power strategy.

"Anne Edner needs to be placed in a family home to be able to grow up under secure and harmonious conditions. The time perspective is, however, unclear as one does not know how long Elizabeth Edner’s own development towards a more stable and secure person will take."

The investigator utilises the insinuating strategy by hinting that Anne is not secure in Elizabeth’s care and that it is only the social-welfare service that can offer Anne a good home. The passage contains rhetorical strategy as shown in the investigator’s words "secure and harmonious conditions" and "development towards a more stable and secure person", which both contain a double plus. The latter excerpt also contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological, since it is implied that Elizabeth must develop and that "one" does not know how long it will take. The strategy of using the impersonal form is shown in the investigator’s reference to "one".

"Elizabeth Edner was pleased about coming to the boarding house Linnea but her mood was unstable and she felt bothered by simple questions about her name and address."

How does the investigator know how Elizabeth feels? The information has the effect of making the client seem pathological, and we see the strategy of ascribing an experience to the client. The positive-negative argumentation strategy is seen in the way the investigator first writes "pleased" (single plus), then "unstable" and "disturbed by simple questions" (double minus).

"Elizabeth Edner wanted to know what was expected of her, and the investigator replied that she must work on the defects in her own personality, such as lack of trust and confidence in the people around her. Edner did not seen receptive to the investigator’s arguments as she was very upset and anxiety-ridden."

The investigator explains the purpose of the placement in a foster home and that Elizabeth "must" work on her defects. A normal reaction to such information is to be upset. The investigator uses this against Elizabeth. The provocative strategy and the strategy of making the client seem pathological are evident.

On an additional page about Elizabeth, dated 120391, it states, "I return to the need for Elizabeth to work on her own emotional disturbances before she and Anne can live together." The investigator avoids describing the course of the whole conversation to appear in a better light. The strategies of withholding information and gradually suppressing details are found. I also ask myself how the investigator can remember so much of the conversation when what is written in the official statement is not described in the addendum? There is nothing written about Elizabeth not being receptive to the investigator’s argument or explanations about what defects of personality are meant. This is the strategy of gradual intensification.

Conversation between the investigator, Lena Kula, Klara Rödgrön and the ‘temporary mother’: "The foster home ought to be capable of tackling the relations and contacts with Elizabeth Edner. The question of finding a suitable family for Anne Edner is a minor problem." The insinuating strategy consists of hinting that Elizabeth creates such great problems that finding a suitable family for Anne is less important.

About the time when Elizabeth locks herself in a toilet with Anne:

"When the policeman comes and knocks on the door Elizabeth Edner comes out with the child. After this dramatic event the visits were cancelled for the following two days to make it clear to Elizabeth that she had exceeded the limit of what was allowed in her treatment of her daughter."

The authorities make use of the total control and power strategy to punish Elizabeth by cancelling visits. This means that Anne, who is not allowed to see her mother for two days, is also punished.

"The investigator is of the opinion that Edner’s repeated description of Svan’s and Såg’s clothing "they came in black clothes like black witches" are delusions that are caused by Edner’s strong anxiety."

It is normal for people to add pictures to be able to describe a thing/situation better, for instance, black as pitch, hungry as a wolf. Language full of metaphors is accepted, i.a. in literature and probably authors are not full of "strong anxiety" when they write in that way. Here the investigator tries to make it a sign of delusion, which is an example of the strategy of making the client seem pathological. Here we find the logical error, imperfecta enumeratio, i.e. incomplete enumeration/consideration of causes, interpretations, etc. The exaggeration strategy is shown in the arbitrary interpretation. The information contains presumptive strategy, Elizabeth is presumed to suffer from anxiety.

"Other contacts during the period above"

"Bryan Morris of the British Consulate-General has been contacted by Elizabeth Edner and has helped her in various ways to put forward her views to the investigator and head of the section."

The investigator is using the insinuating strategy. The investigator implies that Morris follows Elizabeth’s lead entirely and has no opinion of his own, and that Elizabeth needs help to put forward her views.

"What characterises the contacts above and also other conversations the investigator has had with the staff at Birkahemmet is that Elizabeth Edner supplies some facts and omits details, to different people. This has brought with it the risk that different people can be played against each other because they have not had access to information."

Here the investigator implies (insinuating strategy) that Elizabeth goes round to people and deliberately hides information so that she herself may be seen in a better light.

"Analysis/assessment of the problem"

"The concern for Elizabeth Edner’s situation that was expressed by the Women’s Clinic, combined with what was known of Elizabeth’s background, meant that it was judged as important to be able to make contact with Elizabeth Edner and to be able to offer her support and help in various forms."

The passage contains the strategy of stressing an experience/a feeling in that the investigator writes that the Women’s Clinic felt "concern". The phrase "what was known" is unspecific and a double minus. A double plus is seen when the authority describes itself, "support" and "help". The investigator uses an impersonal strategy by writing "it was judged" without mentioning the subject.

"As far as can be judged, Anne Edner appears to be a normally developed little girl, so that there is reason to believe that Anne Edner’s first period with her mother has been good and functioned well, and that Elizabeth Edner has managed the care of her daughter in a good way.

However, there are elements in Elizabeth’s way of caring for her daughter and of managing her life as a single mother that are, and have been, strange, and that have led to intervention on the part of the social-welfare service."

The investigator uses the positive-negative argumentation strategy; first comes the positive information, then follows the negative information about Elizabeth. In the positive information the investigator uses words indicating uncertainty ("as can", "appears", "believe", but not in the negative. Here we have the strategy of selective use of words indicating uncertainty. The last part contains the vagueness strategy, since nothing is written about what is meant by strange elements, but it is left to the reader’s imagination.

"The fact that Elizabeth Edner had an extremely negative attitude towards contact with the social welfare service at first is, of course, not something she should be blamed for. Naturally, the social welfare service has to accept that people sometimes do not wish to have any contact, and that they show an negative attitude to social workers. What is strange about Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour is her strongly aggressive attitude and her sudden aggressive outbursts against the social secretary in charge of the case. The fact that her aggressiveness has been given full vent when the child has been in her immediate neighbourhood, even in her arms, does not make everything less strange."

In this passage the investigator fabulates when she says that Elizabeth was very negative to the social welfare service at first, since Elizabeth agreed to both the home sister and the home therapist. The investigator appears to be understanding, and (claims that) the social welfare service certainly accepts people’s attitudes, but that Elizabeth’s behaviour, in particular, is not acceptable. The strategies of making the client seem peculiar and of implying that the client’s criticism stems from the client’s pathological condition are seen here.

The passage contains moralising strategy: one should not be aggressive towards an official and not in the presence of children, and the hammer strategy, where the investigator points out that Elizabeth is aggressive three times, "strange" twice. The negative reinforcement strategy is seen in the use of the words: "extremely negative", "of course", "naturally .. has", "strange" (twice), "strongly aggressive", "sudden aggressive outbursts", "full vent" and "even".

"Elizabeth Edner has later shown that she is very unstable, and that can get sudden aggressive outbursts. It seems that Elizabeth Edner finds it difficult to control her feelings, and she therefore sometimes behaves impulsively, for instance, with sudden fierce anger. This appears to be one of her personal characteristics, which sometimes makes it difficult for her to come into contact with other people."

The investigator has in no way shown that this makes contact with anyone else besides the investigator difficult. How does the investigator know this? The strategy of making the client seem pathological by making her behaviour seem too intense is shown in the words "very unstable", "sudden aggressive outbursts", "difficult to control", "sudden fierce anger", "makes it difficult", etc.

"An isolated life does not in itself signify any immediate risk that Anne Edner could fare badly (…) As Anne Edner grows older, however, her needs will change, and she will increasingly need to have contact with other children and adults to develop in a good way.

Elizabeth Edner’s social isolation and limited contacts with the world around her stand out as one of her peculiarities, and may perhaps also be regarded as a result of the difficulties Elizabeth Edner has and which make her a special person with an eccentric personality. There is reason to fear that Elizabeth Edner would not be able to satisfy Anne’s need of independent contacts and relations with both children and adults. A limited and perhaps even an isolated social life would be harmful to Anne Edner and affect her development in a negative way."

What factual basis is there for "There is reason.."? No details are supplied. The passage contains positive-negative argumentation strategy, as the investigator first writes that an isolated life does not signify any risk to Anne and then points out that Elizabeth’s isolated life and Elizabeth’s personality are harmful to Anne.

The passage also contains the negative synonym strategy in that the investigator writes "social isolation" + "limited contacts" (double minus) and "special" + "eccentric" (double minus), which explain the same phenomenon. The phrase "affect her development in a negative way" adds no more to the case than "harmful to Anne Edner" has done. The investigator also combines the exaggeration strategy with the strategy of making the client seem peculiar, as evident in the words "peculiarities", "special", "eccentric". The investigator takes it utterly for granted that Elizabeth lives an asocial life and that it harms Anne, which shows the negative prognosis strategy linked to the implicit theory strategy. The investigator indirectly admits that she is speculation in her use of such words as "perhaps" and "may perhaps". The way the investigator writes is an example of rhetorical strategy.

"On several occasions in the investigative material it has appeared that it has often been very untidy and messy in Elizabeth Edner’s home. This has been observed both by officials from the social welfare service and by other people visiting Elizabeth Edner."

The passage generalises, what "occasions" are referred to, how many times is "often", what does "very untidy and messy" mean, who are the "other people"? Since no details are given, we have the vagueness strategy here. Words such as "often", "very", "both" are part of the negative reinforcement strategy. "On several occasions" and "often" are a double minus. When the investigator writes both "untidy" and "messy", she is using the negative synonym strategy, the second word adds little. The strategy of referring to unspecified others appears in the investigator’s mentioning that other people have observed the same thing as she has. The passage continues:

"It should be emphasised that a messy and untidy home does not naturally in itself signify a danger to such a small child as Elizabeth Anne Edner or is anything that could form a basis for intervention by the social welfare service.

Furthermore, the fact is that the degree of disorder and how tidy a home is are extremely seldom anything that is mentioned or commented on in such situations. When they are referred to, the reason has usually been that the conditions have been rather extreme in character. In Elizabeth Edner’s case, one has to regard the fact that the disorder in her home has been mentioned on several different occasions as a signal that Elizabeth Edner does not quite have the same energy as other people or cannot manage to keep her home in a more or less cosy state without at times letting it deteriorate into a mess that other people react to. The underlying reasons are difficult to see, but one could anyway probably understand it as evidence of Elizabeth Edner being in a state of mental imbalance."

The passage contains positive-negative argumentation and the strategy of exploiting and exaggerating events. First the investigator excuses herself for taking up Elizabeth’s house-cleaning by explaining that it was extreme in character and that otherwise it wouldn’t be mentioned. This gives the strategy of making the client seem peculiar together with the hammer strategy, where the investigator hammers in that Elizabeth is peculiar, extreme, etc. Then comes the blackening of Elizabeth’s character, when the investigator uses impersonal strategy to underline that she is not the only one of this opinion, e.g. "one has to regard the fact" and "one could anyway probably".

The investigator claims that how tidy a home is not usually taken up in "such situations"; here I refer to Bo Edvardsson (1997), who says it is common for the social welfare service to take up lack of tidiness in a home and using it against the client.

The investigator also uses the negative synonym strategy, in "messy" + "untidy", "the degree of disorder" + "how tidy a home is", the second adds nothing to the argument. Reactions from others apart from those concerned are not relevant in an investigation, so "that others react to" is both irrelevant and non-specific - who are the "others"? The strategy of referring to unspecified others is evident in that the investigator exploits "other’s" reactions and points out that it has happened on several different occasions to impress her opinion on the reader.

Finally, the investigator puts forward the fact that Elizabeth, who is a single mother with an infant, has an untidy flat is a sign that Elizabeth is in a state of mental imbalance. This is an arbitrary interpretation, exceeding the limits of her competence, and a vague conclusion implying that many people in Sweden are mentally imbalanced. The investigator ignores the basic rate of having an untidy home and other explanations.

Furthermore, the passage contains contradictions, evident in the words ‘"difficult to see" and "one could probably anyway". The vagueness strategy is seen in the lack of precision regarding the occasions or circumstances referred to, which means that there is no factual basis for the interpretation. The passage contains moralising strategy; the investigator hints at her moral standpoint in her use of the "loaded" word "deteriorate" .

"During the investigations that the social welfare service has carried out, Elizabeth and Anne Edner have been observed together. One has noticed a strong and warm emotional relationship between them. However, it has been understood that Elizabeth to some extent uses the closeness and bodily contact with her daughter for the sake of her own security, which is strange, and in the long run something that could make a normal positive development considerably more difficult for Anne Edner."

The first part of the passage is positive, but is followed directly by the claim that Elizabeth exploits Anne by having too strong and emotional a relation between them; positive-negative argumentation strategy and the strategy of making the client seem pathological are evident. The passage also contains a fabulation strategy, since in no reference or certificate has it appeared that Elizabeth uses their relationship for her own security’s sake - there is no foundation in fact. If the investigator has not obtained the statement from any certificate, this is a matter of exceeding the limits of one’s competence. Further, I ask who is/are "one"? Here the investigator uses impersonal strategy by writing "However, it has been understood" without specifying the subject.

The argumentation "in the long run" contains the negative prognosis strategy. When the investigator puts forward her own interpretation with the word "strange", she is using the strategy of stressing her own experience. The strategy of gradually suppressing details is evident, as a similar statement is found in the official statement of 31 January 1991, but there the formulation is "to a large extent" instead of "to some extent". What made the investigator change her mind? The change indicates that the first version was a fabulation or that the investigator thinks that it is too obvious what she wants to bring out.

"Elizabeth Edner’s instability with sudden and strong aggressive outbursts, her social isolation and difficulties in contacts with other people, her inability to look after her home, and the fact that she has been intoxicated together constitute circumstances that provide grounds for fearing that Elizabeth is not capable of taking good care of Anne Edner. These different factors that have been regarded as strange in Elizabeth Edner’s way of living and looking after her daughter must in the view of the investigator be linked with Elizabeth Edner’s background and to the mental problems and difficulties she has had earlier. The investigator believes that Elizabeth Edner’s behaviour may be seen as evidence that her previous problems still remain, and that she has in no way worked on them or overcome them."

The passage contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological, as seen in the words "sudden and strong aggressive outbursts" (also an example of the strategy of making the client’s behaviour seem too intense), " is not capable", "inability", "mental problems and difficulties", " in no way worked on".

The multi-minus strategy is seen in the way the investigator attributes Elizabeth 6 negative characteristics in the first sentence. The investigator regards it as a fact that Elizabeth "has difficulties in contacts with other people" when it is her own interpretation (interpretation strategy). The investigator’s conclusion "must be linked" does not allow any alternatives and exceeds the limits of her competence.

"It should also be pointed out that what is stated above concerning Elizabeth Edner and her way of looking after her daughter are mainly circumstances that existed before the intervention of the social welfare service in October 1990, and what immediately led to these interventions. Elizabeth’s reaction and behaviour in these respects cannot be explained by her being shocked by what has been done by the social welfare service when Elizabeth and Anne Edner have been separated."

The social welfare service implies (insinuating strategy) that they have no influence at all on Elizabeth’s handling or the intervention; the strategy of justifying oneself and one’s actions is seen. It would appear to be a counter-move to Elizabeth’s appeal against the judgement of the country administrative court.

"Since October 1990 the social welfare service has worked intensively in this matter. One has tried to accommodate Elizabeth in various ways and thereby create opportunities for co-operation with her,"

The investigator uses the contrast strategy with a favourable description of the social welfare service (triple plus), which makes Elizabeth appear in a negative light. This may be interpreted as coming from the "we and they" mentality of the social welfare service.

The investigator explains the grounds for the application for care according to the Care of Young Persons Act submitted after Anne was placed in a temporary foster home: "Elizabeth Edner has had mental problems for many years, which today are expressed, among other things, in great mental instability, with sudden aggressive outbursts and a tendency to allow herself to by governed by impulses in her behaviour. She lives in social isolation and has difficulties in contacts with other people. Periodically she finds it difficult to look after her home and sometimes abuses alcohol. Altogether Elizabeth Edner appears to be a person with a highly individual personality, leading to difficulty in adjusting to what are regarded as commonly accepted norms. These mental problems and peculiarities of Elizabeth Edner and her periodic abuse constitute circumstances whose consequences are that Elizabeth Edner lacks in her care of Anne, and that there is therefore a risk of injuring Anne Edner’s health and development. These risks exist both in the short-term perspective, primarily because Elizabeth Edner abuses and is not capable to taking care of Anne Edner. There is a very obvious risk of injury in a more long-term perspective, as Elizabeth Edner’s tendency to live in isolation, her sudden aggressive outbursts and her inability to distinguish and give priority to her daughter’s needs before her own will have a definite effect on Anne Edner’s life, the older Anne Edner becomes, and the greater the demands she has. Altogether, it can be said that Elizabeth’s mental problems are of such a nature that they will influence and mark her daughter’s life in a negative way, and that there is therefore an obvious risk that Anne will be injured."

The care application is not included in the appendices, which makes it impossible for me to check from where the original information was obtained. I have talked to Elizabeth Edner’s legal representative Ruby Harrold-Claesson on 970119, and she assumes, as I do, that the above is a summary of earlier material, etc., that the social welfare service has had access to. The investigator’s style of argumentation and use of rhetorical strategy is displayed throughout the passage, where she summarises everything negative she has and feels about Elizabeth. The summary contains several different strategies, the one of making the client seem pathological, seen in the investigator’s description of Elizabeth as aggressive, impulsive, mentally unstable, incapable of looking after Anne, having problems of abuse, living in social isolation, etc. The multi-minus strategy is shown in the way the investigator mentions 17 negative characteristics, including repetition.

The passage is a clear example of the strategies of making the client seem too intense and seem peculiar. These are evident in words such as: "sudden aggressive outbursts" (twice), "impulses", "highly individual personality," "peculiarities", "difficulty in adjusting to ..accepted norms". The negative prognosis strategy comes out when the investigator predicts that Anne risks being injured in the short-term perspective, and there is a "very obvious risk of injury" and "obvious risk" from Elizabeth being as she is. The investigator commits the logical error of having overconfidence in our own judgement. The passage contains clear examples of the negative reinforcement strategy, the hammer strategy and repetitive strategy, all working together. They are seen in words such as: "for many years", "great mental instability", "strong aggressive outbursts", "highly individual", "risks", "injured" (twice), "risk", "very obvious", "injury", "needs" (twice), "sudden" (twice), "definite effect", "obvious risk", "difficulty" (three times), etc. There is no precise reference in the passage to what events are meant. How does the investigator know that Elizabeth has difficulty in contacts with other people? The strategy of overconfidence in oneself and others is seen.

Elizabeth was about to make a study visit to a clinic when she found out that it also accepted HIV-positive clients - she left the train before it departed.

"The investigator considered that one should show some tolerance of the fact that such information may be difficult for Elizabeth to accept, and that it may affect her attitude to the Södra Målen clinic. The investigator believes, however, that this situation serves as yet another example of the way Elizabeth Edner allows herself to be governed by impulses, and that she all of a sudden overthrows what has been planned for a long time."

First comes the positive information that the investigator is understanding, then follows fabrication of evidence by means of the implicit theory strategy - Elizabeth’s behaviour being seen as evidence of impulsiveness with the implication that she is a trouble-maker, especially for the person/persons the investigator calls "one".

The investigator commits the logical error imperfecta enumeratio (no alternative interpretations are made) in the strategy of interpreting everything negatively. An alternative interpretation could be that Elizabeth made a risk assessment.

The passage contains the strategy of making the client seem too intense, evident in "allows herself to be governed by impulses" and "all of a sudden overthrows", i.e. Elizabeth is presented as unpredictable and erratic. Elizabeth should not be blamed for not wishing to take her one-year-old daughter to a clinic where HIV-positive persons are admitted, since the people of Sweden have freedom of opinion. This illustrates the strategy of implying that the client’s criticism stems from the client’s pathological condition.

"The picture of Elizabeth Edner and her problems has changed as one has had the opportunity to get to know her better and see how she functions in herself and with her daughter. Situations have arisen at the visitation times at Birkahemmet where Elizabeth Edner has behaved strangely and in a way that has not been good for Anne.

Today another assessment has been formed on the part of the social welfare service and Birkahemmet than the one previously existing."

The investigator does not specify what situations are meant; the vagueness strategy and the rhetorical strategy are seen, making it necessary for the reader to decide himself what "behaved strangely" means. This emphasises the implication that the more "one" gets to know Elizabeth, the more one understands that she has serious problems and behavioural patterns that are not good for Anne, and that is why another assessment is formed. The strategy of insinuation is evident. The expression "Elizabeth has behaved strangely" is part of a hammer strategy that is intended, together with other parts of the investigation, to make Elizabeth appear mentally ill, strongly aggressive and different.

"Elizabeth Edner is assessed to be in need of comprehensive and penetrating therapeutic treatment to be able to overcome her own mental problems."

Nowhere in the text is there any reference to the person who made this assessment (impersonal strategy), so I draw the conclusion that it is the investigator herself who has formed this assessment. The investigator is not qualified to assess who should have therapeutic treatment or not, or how "comprehensive" the need is. This exemplifies the strategy of exceeding the limits of one’s competence and the therapy strategy. The passage contains the negative synonym strategy; "comprehensive" and "penetrating" being synonyms.

"Naturally, it is to be regretted that the care plan has been changed, and it is highly understandable that Elizabeth Edner has reacted to this. It is the opinion of the investigator, however, that the form of the care plan was determined by the knowledge of Elizabeth Edner that initially existed and on the basis of the picture of her problems that has been formed later, and that the present altered care plan is the result of that picture of the person Elizabeth Edner and the further circumstances that have occurred and that have changed the picture of her problems."

The passage contains the strategy of positive-negative argumentation and the scapegoat strategy, since the investigator first regrets that the care plan has been changed, saying that she understands Elizabeth’s reactions, then goes on to imply that it is Elizabeth’s own fault. I assume that the doctrine of zero influence has influenced the investigator’s argumentation. The passage is an example of the strategy of making the client seem pathological and of the rhetorical strategy. The vagueness strategy is seen in that the investigator does not explain what "circumstances" are meant, and what picture of Elizabeth is referred to.

"To this may be added the behaviour and reaction that Elizabeth has shown recently and which the investigator considers underline and reinforce the assessment previously made that Elizabeth has her own mental problems and peculiarities that are of a serious nature, and that require much work for her to be able to function in a good way, both in herself and in her role as mother of Anne."

The investigator exceeds the limits of her competence when she decides what mental problems are of a serious nature and need "much work" - the therapy strategy is seen. The passage contains the reinforcement strategy and the strategy of making the client seem peculiar, as evident in the words: "underline", "reinforce", "peculiarities", "serious nature" and "require". What does "recently" mean? Specific information is lacking.

"Naturally, one should take into account that a mother is strongly affected by being involuntarily separated from her child, and consequently reacts in a chock and desperate state. This is what could be described as normal and generally applicable for people in similar situations to Elizabeth Edner’s.

The investigator is of the opinion, however, that some of Elizabeth Edner’s reactions fall outside what is generally applicable and that, instead, they reveal her mental problems and special individual character. As an example of this can be mentioned the situations where she has set fire to her flat, that she has rung to the members of the social welfare committee and staff at the social welfare office at home and begged to have her daughter back, and she has repeatedly telephoned the chairman of the social welfare committee, Irene Saltgurka, including a number of times at night, and when she has not got hold of Irene Saltgurka, asked the said person’s son for help in getting Anne Edner back, that she has visited the administrative section of the urban district office and asked people entirely unknown to her for help, and that she has sent postcards and letters to members of the committee, enclosing photographs of her daughter that, in Elizabeth’s view, show how badly her daughter has fared when taken into care.

This reaction, which appears desperate and boundless must be seen as expressing Elizabeth’s peculiarities as a person."

In this passage, the investigator stands out as positive and understanding about the behaviour of mothers in care cases, but that the reaction of the client is too desperate and boundless to be considered normal, an example of positive-negative argumentation strategy. In her explanation, the investigator puts forward irrelevant information that is more acceptable because it is used in explanation, evidence of rhetorical strategy. What is meant by "the generally applicable"? Irrelevant information about the investigator’s perception of Elizabeth. The positive-negative argumentation strategy is very difficult to detect, and if you read quickly without paying attention, you do not notice the blackening of the client’s character, which contains the reinforcement strategy with such words as: "however", "falls outside the generally applicable", "mental problems", "individual character", "peculiarities", "desperate and boundless", (the last two are part of the negative synonym strategy). The passage entirely lacks specific facts and there is no date. The passage contains the strategies of making the client seem pathological ("mental problems", "falls outside the generally applicable", "desperate", "boundless") and peculiar ("falls outside the generally applicable", "individual character", "peculiarities").

The passage also contains antidemocratic strategy, since the committee members appear to have no office telephones and it is a democratic right to contact politicians. The idea in the text appears to be that one should not make use of one’s democratic rights or act democratically in one’s own defence. If this happens, then there are mental problems and desperate reactions. The investigator’s implied morals, that one should not ask complete strangers for help, write letters to or show family snapshots to committee members, also come out in this passage (= the moralising strategy).

The investigator uses the strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error when she says that Elizabeth’s reactions must be seen as an expression of Elizabeth’s peculiarities as a person, and denies that it may have something to do with the intervention of the social welfare service in Elizabeth’s situation, or that it is crisis behaviour.

"On no occasion has she expressed any insight into the need of care that the social welfare service considers to exist. Rather, Elizabeth Edner’s attitude has been that she will agree to anything to pacify the social welfare service, and that the important thing is being allowed to be with Anne. Elizabeth Edner has also seen the intervention of the social welfare service in her life as the main cause of her problems. Consent based on such an attitude is not the kind of consent required for care to be given on a voluntary basis."

The passage contains the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions and the strategy of justifying oneself and one’s actions. The validity of Elizabeth’s consent is restricted by referring to the investigator’s view that Elizabeth does not have any insight into the need of care that the social welfare service believes to exist. The investigator assumes that her own standpoint is the right one. The strategy of overconfidence in oneself and others is seen. Elizabeth’s views are used to "define away" her consent, and the strategy of making the client’s criticism seem pathological is evident.

"The investigator is also of the opinion that Elizabeth Edner has shown, by her reactions concerning the plans for staying at the Södra Målen clinic, that it is impossible to give credit to her consent. There is always a risk that the agreements will be broken off abruptly because of Elizabeth Edner’s sudden impulsive changes of opinion."

The suppression strategy comes out in this passage, since the investigator does not explain why Elizabeth changed her mind about staying at the clinic.

As a result of Elizabeth not wishing to be with her child at Södra Målen because they admit HIV-positive clients, the investigator says that it is impossible to give credit to Elizabeth’s consent. The investigator uses Elizabeth’s opinions to invalidate her consent; the exaggeration strategy and the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions work together here. The hammer strategy and the strategy of making the client’s behaviour seem too intense are seen in the words: "broken off abruptly", "sudden", "impulsive". The investigator uses the strategy of interpreting everything negatively. An alternative interpretation is that Elizabeth analyses the problem, and that her reaction is an appropriate one.


"Elizabeth Edner was the subject of various treatment measures in psychiatric care during the 1980’s. This has undoubtedly contributed to a reduction in her alcohol consumption."

The passage contains a clear example of the insinuation strategy. The investigator hints that Elizabeth herself has not made any contribution towards reducing her alcohol consumption. How does the investigator know this? There is no factual foundation for the statement.

The investigator commits the logical error of overconfidence by writing "undoubtedly" when it is just a matter of guesswork. The passage is self-promotion on the part of authority, implying that Elizabeth would be incapable of reducing her alcohol consumption without them. The strategy of strategic interpretation (for persecution) is evident.

"The social welfare secretary Gerd Svan offered Elizabeth Edner various forms of assistance, including contact with a home therapist. It was Svan’s intention to support Elizabeth in her parental role and personally by means of conversational contact However, Elizabeth refused these measures as she thought she had no need of personal support or suchlike."

What the investigator does not relate is that Elizabeth agreed to have the home sister that Gerd Svan offered her, and that she also agreed to a home therapist. By withholding this information, the investigator makes Elizabeth appear in a poorer light than would otherwise have been the case.

"Svan felt that Elizabeth Edner was very strange in her behaviour and points to, among other things, her extreme aggressiveness and that she did not take her young child into consideration when she gave vent to her strong and negative feelings."

The strategy of making the client seem peculiar comes out in the words: "very strange" and "extreme aggressiveness". The strategy of stressing one’s own experience is seen in "Svan felt". The passage also contains a contrast strategy; "young child" is used as a contrast to the reinforcement strategy, where Elizabeth is painted as a monster by means of such words as "very", "extreme", "strong". No factual grounds are given, nor any reference to a specific time.

"This assessment is based on Anne Edner’s need to be in a calm and harmonious home environment where adult people with a mature and stable emotional life can foster her. Elizabeth Edner is judged to be incapable of satisfying the growing needs that Anne will have as she develops and gets older."

It is implied that the social welfare service can give Anne everything that Elizabeth cannot give, and according to the investigator that is a lot, illustrating the insinuation strategy and the strategy of emphasising the resources of the social authorities. This text contains rhetorical strategy very reminiscent of the jargon of politicians, such as, for example: "growing need", "calm and harmonious home environment", "need", "develop". The passage contains the negative prognosis strategy and the negative synonym strategy (calm + harmonious, mature + stable). Another strategy that appears in the passage is the one of making trivial statements in a negative context, which easily gives the reader an implicit negative meaning regarding the mother. Every child needs to be in a calm and harmonious home environment, not just Anne, which makes this a trivial piece of information in an investigation. The text also contains the strategy of making the client seem pathological, when the investigator implies that Elizabeth is not capable of satisfying the child’s needs, and that Elizabeth does not have a mature and stable emotional life.

  1. Official report 1994-11-29

This official report concerns the considerations concerning Elizabeth’s right of visitation with Anne. The investigation comprises four pages. The person handling the official report is Henrietta Harpun. There is no explicit question at issue. The official report lacks an analysis of resources and arguments for and against. The control and power strategy is clearly evident in the text.

"Elizabeth Edner’s situation"

"Elizabeth never started at Domen Art School (…) It may be possible for her to start after Christmas instead, but she doesn’t know."

The passage contains the reinforcement strategy when the investigator uses "never", and she contradicts herself when she then points out that Elizabeth may possibly start the course later.

"Elizabeth Edner’s situation and the relationship between Elizabeth and Anne"

"Elizabeth writes lots of postcards to Anne. The foster home usually collects the cards together and gives Anne a few at a time."

There is no explanation anywhere of why the foster home uses this power strategy. Possibly this is a way of delaying the information to the child. It may also be a way of mixing information on the same occasion so that some information is not so obvious. This action is a violation of integrity at the cost of Anne, because she it is not likely that she would choose to receive the cards in batches.

  1. Official report 1995-10-23

This official report concerns Elizabeth’s petition about the withdrawal of the care order, or alternatively, extending the right of visitation. The investigation comprises 20 pages, plus 7 appendices. Henrietta Harpun is the person in charge of the investigation.

The investigation appears to be a loose collection of old investigations, containing the opinions of the former social welfare secretary, which are confused with the opinions of the new social secretary. The investigation contains old, irrelevant information on Elizabeth and there is no explicit question at issue.

A general strategy that comes out in the text is quantitative strategy. The investigation is similar to the phenomenon Edvardsson (1996, p. 19) calls "naivistic collage of cuttings", which means: "The investigations in most cases lack the questions at issue and information of varying quality is collected, sometimes rather haphazardly - and is pasted together."

The development of the case within the social welfare service at Lundby up to July 1991"

"On the part of the social welfare service, it was assessed that it was difficult to establish positive and constructive contact with Elizabeth, whose moods frequently swung back and forth. Elizabeth was sometimes very irritated in her conversations with the social welfare secretary and sometimes had sudden aggressive outbursts."

The passage contains the strategies of making the client seem too intense and pathological. There is no basis in fact, since there are no details of, or time reference for, the events mentioned.

"When Anne was six months old three separate reports came in within a short period. The reports showed serious shortcomings in Anne’s home conditions. The reports were made partly by two persons close to Elizabeth, partly by a pre-school teacher at the open pre-school. At the time of all three reports Elizabeth was inebriated, and there was serious anxiety concerning Anne’s situation and fears whether Elizabeth manage to look after Anne in a satisfactory way. These events led to Anne being taken into immediate care in October 1990."

The vagueness strategy is evident in that the investigator does not specify who made the reports and when they occurred. I have reached the conclusion that the persons meant were Sara Isaksson, Berta Bergvall and Lena Grön.

The investigator uses the fabulation strategy when she writes that Elizabeth was inebriated at the time of the three reports. In the first place, Grön submitted an "enquiry whether it was possible for Elizabeth Edner to get help with household chores" (official report 1990-11-28) to a social welfare secretary at the Children’s Welfare Clinic; an enquiry is not the same thing as a report. In the second place, there is no mention anywhere that Elizabeth was inebriated at Kerstin’s and Elizabeth’s dinner in the four previous official reports, or in the material I have access to. Neither is there any reference to Lena Grön’s assertion: "serious anxiety concerning Anne’s situation", or that she had "fears whether" Elizabeth looked after Anne, as the passage implies. The fact that the investigator does not explain the three reports in more detail indicates that exaggeration strategy has been used.

"At the end of December a report came into the emergency office in Göteborg about Anne and Elizabeth. According to the person making the report, Elizabeth was intoxicated and in bad shape. The reporter was anxious about Anne."

The vagueness strategy is evident in this passage. No details are given of the person who made the report, the time of the report or its contents. Someone has written "anonymous" before "report" by hand.

"When the plans took a more concrete form later through a study visit to the Södra Målen clinic, Elizabeth backed out at the last moment. She did not come along when she and the social welfare secretary were supposed to take the train to Nässjö."

The investigator does not explain why Elizabeth backed out, that she did not wish to stay with her child at a place where HIV-infected clients were admitted: the suppression strategy.

"Included in the assessment was the picture of Elizabeth’s problems that evolved more and more. It was primarily through the contacts of Birkahemmet with Elizabeth that the picture became clear. It was obvious that Elizabeth’s own needs were of such a comprehensive character that a treatment aimed at strengthening her role as a mother was not sufficient. Elizabeth’s need of treatment was considered to be of another character and of such a nature that her own emotional needs would be satisfied. It was not considered favourable for Anne’s emotional and social development to enter into treatment together with Elizabeth when the treatment was focused on the child."

The impersonal strategy is evident in the lack of a subject in many of the sentences, e.g. "was considered", "it was not considered". The investigator uses rhetorical strategy, shown in the words: "aimed at strengthening her role as a mother was not sufficient". What does this mean? The last sentence contains the rhetorical and vagueness strategies, in that the investigator states that a treatment focusing on the child would not benefit Anne. What factual basis does the investigator have for this conclusion? The negative prognosis strategy is also seen in the implication that Elizabeth’s problems "just go on growing".

"During the whole of the spring Elizabeth gave vent to her desperation and sought support from various people. (..) She also rang to various officials in the administration to give vent to her anger and disappointment."

The passage makes the client seem pathological; Elizabeth appears desperate, aggressive and unable to manage on her own without the support of "various people". It is the investigator’s interpretation that Elizabeth rang in order to "give vent" to her feelings. Elizabeth’s purpose could have been another. Here we have the strategy of using strategic interpretation and making the client’s criticism seem pathological.

"Elizabeth Edner’s adolescence/family situation/ housing"

"Elizabeth’s parents took care of their grandchild (Anita) a great deal as Elizabeth was busy with her studies."

It is hinted that Elizabeth did not have time for her first child. The information is of no relevance to the present investigation. This is an illustration of the strategy of collecting historical events of little or no relevance.

"Elizabeth Edner’s health/abuse of alcohol"

"Again care in accordance with LSPV ( ) in May 1991."

The passage is reinforced with the word "again".

"She also rang to a lady in Scarborough, England, and talked incoherently about her child that had been taken into care in Sweden."

The passage contains the strategies of presenting irrelevant information and of making the client seem pathological. It should be noted that the basic rate of incoherent language in the population is probably high.

"Throughout the autumn Elizabeth continued to act in desperation and behave in a chaotic and anxious way. Thanks to her actions the people around her understood Elizabeth to be in a poor mental state."

How does the investigator know what the people round about think? The strategy of referring to unspecified others and the vagueness strategy are evident. The reinforcement strategy is shown in the words: "throughout the autumn" and "continued".

"Anne Edner’s situation and her needs"

"Like all other children, Anne needs care and security. She has need of stable adults who can give love and closeness and accept Anne Edner’s love. She needs to be in an environment that provides stimulation and encouragement so that she can develop harmoniously. Anne Edner also needs parents who can set limits in a loving way."

The passage is an example of rhetorical strategy, the investigator describes what all children need. The implication is that Elizabeth cannot satisfy these needs Anne has.

"In her relationship with Elizabeth, Anne needs to feel secure. She gets this security from the parents in the foster home."

The investigator implies that Anne does not feel secure with Elizabeth. What grounds does the investigator have for implying this?

"Meetings between Elizabeth and Anne"

"Despite the circumstances that have occurred with Elizabeth as regards periods in hospital in the area of Göteborg and other areas, the social welfare service in Lundby has made efforts to bring about meetings between Elizabeth and Anne (..) Elizabeth has periodically issued threats against the foster home, but despite this, the family has helped to see that the meetings have occurred as planned."

The passage is an example of the strategy of emphasising the resources of the social authorities. The scapegoat strategy is evident in the implication that Elizabeth causes problems that the social welfare services has to sort out. The vagueness strategy is seen in the lack of precision regarding the events/periods referred to.

The reinforcement strategy is shown by the word "despite", which is used twice. The passage illustrates the strategy of suppressing information, since there is no mention anywhere in the report of Elizabeth’s version of the complaints of threats.

"In July 1994 the social welfare service accommodated Elizabeth by changing the meetings from six hours once a month to three hours every other week. Elizabeth had been asking for such a change for some time. The decision was based, not on Anne’s needs but exclusively in accordance with Elizabeth’s wish for more frequent meetings."

In this passage, it is made clear that the social welfare service certainly does meet Elizabeth’s wishes. The strategy of emphasising the resources of the social authorities is seen. How can the investigator know that Anne has no need of meeting her mother more often?


"Many people have involved themselves on Elizabeth’s behalf and done a lot to help her. Many have turned to the social welfare office to try and help Elizabeth in the contacts concerning Elizabeth. Today, it is so, as far as we know, that most of these persons are no longer in Elizabeth’s company".

Here the investigator wishes to imply that Elizabeth has received great help from outside, but has in some way lost that help for reasons that the reader has to work out for himself. The investigator does not describe the "Many people" in detail, except that they are people Elizabeth has turned to herself, in other contexts, and person at care institutions: evidence of the vagueness strategy. If Elizabeth has received help from so many people, then the investigator should describe these services, instead of ignoring the client’s resources.

"The most recent medical certificates, during and after forensic psychiatric care, have in no way treated the question of whether Elizabeth’s condition can be judged as such that she can take care of Anne Edner. The certificates show that Elizabeth has improved during the period of institutional care and that the improvement has been maintained."

Here the investigator sweeps aside the validity of the medical certificates that present positive information about Elizabeth: the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions is seen.

"In the opinion of the social welfare service, this must be understood in such a way that Elizabeth also has inadequate insight into her mental problems and a lack of confidence in the possibility of receiving treatment for her problems."

The reinforcement strategy is seen in the word "must". If Elizabeth does not have insight into her mental problems, how can she at the same time believe that it is not possible to get help for her problems? The passage is contradictory.

"In the contacts with Elizabeth Edner, Elizabeth still shows that, when she gets agitated or in a state, she has difficulty in considering Anne and her needs. She is then full of her own feelings and acts accordingly and seems to completely forget Anne. There is nothing in Elizabeth’s behaviour towards the social welfare service that indicates that she has changed or overcome her difficulties. She is still occupied with the care order concerning Anne and the events in connection with that. It is difficult to hold a conversation with Elizabeth, who quickly gets into a state, starts shouting and gets desperate. It is also important to point out that Elizabeth’s present stability has lasted for a very short period compared with the long period of mental illness she has behind her."

The investigator is trying to disqualify Elizabeth’s medical certificates stating that Elizabeth is well: the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions. The reinforcement and repetitive strategies are seen in the words: "get into a state", "completely forget", "nothing", "still" (twice). "full", "quickly gets into a state", "very short", "long period".

The passage makes Elizabeth appear pathological, since the investigator believes that Elizabeth cannot satisfy Anne’s needs, that she is difficult to have a conversation with, that she forgets Anne because of her feelings, that she gets into a state and is desperate, that she has incorrigible difficulties and has a long history of mental illness behind her.

"State", "shouting" and "desperate" make a triple minus but describe the same behaviour; the strategy of using negative synonyms in other words. The generalisation strategy is evident in the way the investigator describes Elizabeth’s behaviour in certain situations as if it was always like that.

"The doctors who have recently expressed an opinion regarding Elizabeth have only made a statement concerning the questions of visitations. In the view of the social welfare service, it is important to point out that these assessments have only been made on the basis of Elizabeth’s situation and needs. The doctor treating Elizabeth has not had any knowledge of Anne and her situation."

The passage contains the strategy of justifying oneself and one’s actions and also the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions. By pointing out that the doctors are not aware of Anne’s situation, the social welfare service are "right" to ignore the medical certificates. The doctors may have considered a child’s need of contact with its parent. The emphatic "only" may be incorrect.

7.6 Official report 1996-06-14

This official report is a opinion to the administrative court of appeal regarding the appeal Elizabeth has submitted. The report extends to 12 pages and three appendices. Henrietta Harpun is responsible for the report. Specific questions at issue are lacking. The investigator’s interpretations and arguments are presented as facts. The report illustrates the strategy of over-confidence in oneself and others.

"Anne Edner’s circumstances during the time in care"

The investigator refers to a certificate, dated 950324, from Klara Sen, psychologist and therapist, requested by the social service office. The psychologist met Anne and Ella Röd in the foster home on three occasions during March.

"Klara Sen goes on to say;" The assurance in Anne’s behaviour in the home is further evidence of the bond that exists with the foster home. Klara Sen concludes that Anne has sufficient resources to create an inner picture of her biological mother. Anne has, according to Klara, a very good bond with the foster home and she expresses a definite will to live in the foster home. Klara Sen also interprets part of the test results to mean that Anne needs to be clear as to where she belongs.."

Why does the psychologist not meet Anne together with Elizabeth at any point? It should be obvious to the psychologist that the relationship between Anne and Elizabeth should be observed when they are together if the certificate relates to the transfer of care to the foster home. In the certificate it comes out that the psychologist asks Anne questions about who she likes best, where she wants to live etc. in the presence of Ella Röd. Children of pre-school age are easy to influence, especially with leading questions. An additional factor that can also influence Anne is that the foster mother is also present at the interview. I refer to Anita Cederström (1996, s.205) :

"1. Children of pre-school age are more sensitive to suggestion than older children; accordingly, the younger the child, the greater the sensitivity.(…)

3. (…) –Interviewers who ask non-leading questions, who do not have an already established point of view from the outset, that is to say without favourite hypotheses, do not repeat closed, yes/no and choice questions, have a greater possibility of achieving correct descriptions.

-Interviewers who are tolerant, non-judgemental and who do not create demand situations (for example, by showing certain answers are rewarded) have the greatest possibility of achieving correct descriptions.

A leading question is formulated in such a way that there is an expectation of a specific answer built into the actual question. Trankell (1963, s.33) points out: "The witness has a tendency to correct himself according to the nuances in the enquirer’s questions and behaviour that is reflected in the latter’s expectations."

" Before the summer there had been a period when Elizabeth was angry and irritated with the foster parents and she also threatened to kill the foster mother."

To whom was this threat expressed, when did it occur, what was said? The vagueness strategy is evident. Elizabeth denies the accusation of threat; this should also be mentioned. The suppression strategy is evident.

"Elizabeth readily becomes angry and upset in the course of conversation and occasionally involves Anne in the conflict with the foster parents by, for example, saying to Anne that the foster parents withhold letters and telephone conversations from Elizabeth to her."

Elizabeth is presented as a scapegoat, that she utilises her own daughter for her own purposes. The scapegoat strategy and the moralising strategy are in evidence. The strategy of making the client seem pathological is also used in that the investigator describes Elizabeth as aggressive and that she is easily upset.

"The other appeals submitted by Elizabeth Edner"

"The social welfare service is responsible for trying to achieve co-operation with Elizabeth Edner. Elizabeth Edner has, in the mean time, had a negative attitude to the social welfare service and has not actively assisted when the social welfare service has wanted to discuss the care of Anne with her. Elizabeth has not accepted or understood the reasons for the care order, which has led to difficulties with the work around Anne. The criticism which Elizabeth expresses in her appeal is seen as a consequence of her inability to see her role in that which has occurred."

The investigator makes a scapegoat of Elizabeth; it is Elizabeth’s fault that there is no effective co-operation between the social welfare service and Elizabeth.

The strategy of making the client seem pathological is evident in that the investigator points out that Elizabeth has a negative attitude, lack of understanding and an inability to see her role in that which has occurred.

The strategy of making the client’s criticism seem pathological is used to sweep aside Elizabeth's criticism of the social welfare service in her appeal, which gives the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions. No specific reference is made to the events mentioned, resulting in no factual basis for the investigator’s conclusions.

7.7 Case notes and additional notations.

Examples of case notes and additional notations made by the social welfare service regarding Elizabeth and Anne are given here to demonstrate different strategies. A consistent feature of the material is that Ella Röd’s remarks to Elizabeth are not included, but it is Elizabeth’s language which is commented upon when conversations between them are referred to. This is evidence of suppression strategy. Some of Ella Röd’s comments about Elizabeth are also reported, to demonstrate how Elizabeth is defiled and portrayed as "mad".

Case notes Anne

910318 Meeting at Birkahemmet.

"Conveyed that Birkahemmet considers that Liz (nickname for Elizabeth) is quite "mad". She tests others all the time, has never been hit, is threatening, unpredictable, unpleasant, very unusual according to the temporary mother. (..) Liz needs clear limits to be set.. Secret address?"

This passage is an example of the strategies of making the client seem pathological and of control and power.

920116 Ella Röd about Elizabeth

"Eva S says that she becomes entirely drained –Liz talks constantly about her problems (over and over again the same thing)."

This quotation makes Elizabeth seem pathological.

920203 Klara Rödgrön about Elizabeth:

"and was then stoned"

An unprofessional statement by a social welfare service secretary.

920706 telephone conversation between the investigator and Ella Röd:

"Liz Edner has been worse than ever –rings often, repeats all old things (gramophone record) -(…) She has got information on what has happened – then Liz turned this against the family. Of course, she took her own life – Liz will do so as well, and so on."

The passage is an example of the strategy of making the client seem pathological.

921216 Conversation between the investigator and Ella Röd:

"After the heated conversation when the receiver was thrown down, Liz rang up again and Anne answered and then Liz can control herself (unbelievable)."

By use of the word "unbelievable" Elizabeth is blackened.

930506 Telephone conversation between the investigator and Britta Flås:

"Britta Flås had a conversation with the curator shortly before and was advised that she had seldom seen a person that functioned worse than Liz."

What does this mean? Unprofessional comments by a curator, making out the client to be pathological. Vagueness strategy is evident in that there are no specific details at all.

940909 Conversation with Henrietta Harpun:

"-Liz is haggard -was tipsy. Was impossible to curb .."

Harpun’s comments are unprofessional and make Elizabeth seem pathological.

940921 Telephone conversation between the investigator and Ella Röd:

"Family. Sort out cards - avoid contact between Anne and Liz"


"(the family decides when Anne is to receive the cards)."


"Liz writes cards practically every day (important according to Anita – the same when she was young). The Röd family regulate this themselves."

These excerpts illustrate the control and power strategy.

950202 Telephone conversation between the investigator and Ella Röd:

"This has gone quite well – Liz has been somewhat depressed (then we feel that things work better)."


"Sometimes Ella and Kent laugh when Liz rings (to themselves). This was the day’s telling-off."

This is an example of the strategy of insulting evaluations and comments.

Additional notations Elizabeth Edner

900213 Elizabeth is in the labour ward:

"In the course of a meeting with Liz at Sahlgrenska on the 13th February I can establish that Liz is in a poor mental state and is generally negative and edgy."

This passage makes Elizabeth seem pathological.

921112 Telephone conversation between the investigator and Hedvig Appelgren:

"Liz has invested a great deal in her fight against the social welfare services, sometimes taking priority over everything else including the child."

What factual basis do they have for asserting this? An alternative interpretation could be that Elizabeth is concerned for her child. The strategy of insulting evaluations and comments is evident.

930309 Telephone conversation between the investigator and Elizabeth:

"Liz wants to discuss the circumstances of her life when Anne was taken into care. After a while I assess the conversation to be meaningless, for which reason I conclude the conversation and put down the receiver."

The investigator here uses the strategy of insulting evaluations and comments when she writes that their conversation is meaningless.

"The Passport Question"

There is an event that becomes evident through case notes, etc. which illustrates the power and control strategies. It was on 12 May 1992 that Anne was first named in case notes. Lena Kula in conversation with Ella Röd:

"We are talking about passports. Liz was positive – will arrange it. The family is recommended to take charge of this in time. Anne is a British citizen."

The investigator’s recommendation is a clear example of the power and control strategy. In the cases notes Anne from 940613, the investigator is making a call at the home of the Röd family:

"British citizenship + passport recently arranged (…) Good that citizenship is arranged, certain reservations regarding Liz’s attitude. The family is encouraged to hide the passport so that Liz cannot get it."

Total control and power strategy is evident in this passage.

Elizabeth asked the social welfare service as well as Ella Röd about Anne’s passport but was not permitted to see it before 22 Jan 96, when she was also took charge of it.

In the additional notation Elizabeth 13 Jan 96 it is stated:

"Today Liz rang me. She wants to see Anne’s passport. When I ask why, Elizabeth says that since it was she who applied for the passport, she should also have the right to see it. I enquire with both Kajsa Wall Gren and Anneli Ladugård of the county council. Both are of the opinion that we should show the passport. We have no legal right to withhold the passport."

7.8 Testimonials

The material that has been examined shows that the social welfare service ordered a number of testimonials from various people. This illustrates the strategy of over-confidence in oneself and others. Another strategy, which becomes evident is that of suppression, since any positive references about Elizabeth are glossed over in the reports.

Alun Näbb, first social secretary, sought further information from Dr Jonas Nöjd, senior physician, referring to §71 of the Social Services Act. She asked eight questions, for example:

"Have the psychotic spontaneous outbreaks mentioned, in your judgement, connections with the ongoing abuse in Elizabeth Edner’s case?"

The investigator poses a strongly leading question.

"Is the tendency toward desperation and despair intimately linked with the experience of being unfairly treated by persons in authority, or is it a general way for Elizabeth to handle frustration and powerlessness."

This is also an example of a leading question.

The doctor answers the questions,17-10-95, with the exception of the two specified. "The remaining two questions are questions of judgement where I consider that I lack the basis for these to be well considered, and neither can I see that there is any such responsibility according to §71 of the Social Services Act."

Letter from Martin Flis, section manager, for Klara Rödgrön, social welfare secretary at Birkahemmet, for a supplementary reference. Flis poses questions such as:

"-In what way is Anne at risk of injury in her health and development on account of the mother’s behaviour/personality according to Birkahemmet?

-What in Liz’s behaviour is considered by Birkahemmet as acute crisis reactions and as disturbances in her personality?

(…) It is perhaps easier for you to receive the questions on paper as the reference from Birkahemmet is very important when submitting an opinion to the administrative court of appeal .

Martin Flis poses leading questions exceeding the limits of his competence. He speaks of the reference being important, to increase the pressure on Rödgrön.

Gösta Holst, senior physician in the open child psychiatric care, gives a reference after meeting Anne and the foster mother the 6/7 1993, for a period of 1 1/2 hours:

"I consider that one should be protective of the visiting rights that now function. One cannot leave Anne alone with the mother. (…)

If one sees how things have gone for Anne, there is cause to be grateful. She had all the good the mother was capable of giving her, and when that was finished she got out in time. The greatest opposition to this development has come from the doctors. The paediatrician who examined the girl and issued two certificates last November at the request of the administrator later submitted two opinions in which he expressly warned against a separation of mother and daughter without it being established that he acted at the request of the mother."

This reference has been produced on the instructions of the social welfare service. Gösta Holst expresses an opinion in respect to the relation between Anne and Elizabeth without having met them together and without having met Elizabeth. The senior physician finds fault with Håkan Elmén, thereby making Elmén’s references seem unimportant. The strategies of restricting the credibility of other’s opinions and of over-confidence in oneself and others are evident.

Information from the foster home secretary, Lena Kula, 19931023, about Anne, before the request from Elizabeth to take Anne home:

"Contact between Anne and her biological mother has, for the most part, been positive for Anne, even if the current contact frequency can be questioned. The researcher considers that at the most one contact per month will fully satisfy Anne’s needs."

What does the investigator base her judgement on? The passage is unspecified, vagueness strategy is evident.

"Irrespective of the mental state Liz Edner is in, she sends signals subconsciously to Anne about her own dissatisfaction over the situation."

How does the investigator know this? The statement exceeds the limits of her competence and is unspecific.

Periodically Anne demonstrates concern for her future. She asks questions and shows in many ways that she has received information that jeopardises her security."

Insinuation strategy is evident in that the investigator implies that it is Elizabeth that has given Anne the unsettling information.

It has occurred that Anne has previously said "That’s what Ruby said". Ella Röd has then asked who Ruby is. Anne has then answered "She is the black lady"."

Why does the investigator refer to this in an opinion in answer to a request to take the child home? What does the investigator want to demonstrate? This piece is irrelevant.

"A close and unpredictable contact can put Anne’s mental health at risk and thereby inhibit her continued development."

Why should a closer contact be unpredictable? Insinuation strategy is evident. The piece contains negative prognosis strategy.


The purpose of this paper has been to investigate whether persecution strategies occur in the handling of an LVU (Care of Young Persons Act) case, as well as seeing whether the case is lacking in objectivity and impartiality, contrary to the stipulations of the Constitution Act.

In my investigation, I have found that there are both persecution strategies and a lack of objectivity and impartiality. The findings are similar to those of earlier research into persecution strategies. (See Edvardsson 1989, 1991; Jäderqvist et al.1994: Stenberg, 1995; Juntilla et al. 1994; Jansson and Rönnbäck, 1995; Skog, 1996; Rönnbäck,1996).

8.1 Final analysis of persecution strategies

The results of the examination show 56 persecution strategies/ lines of action. The strategies are not independent of one another but overlap and complement each other. From the official reports, two main features stand out among the lines of action taken by the investigators. One is that power defines reality; the other is influencing and persuading the reader.

Power defines reality

The line of action consists in power, in this case the social welfare service, defining reality.

The authorities (investigators) do not consider other information, for example, other authorities, clients etc. but act according to their own definition of reality.

This results in the investigator ignoring the investigations of other authorities, drawing her own conclusions from illogical arguments, making interpretations without factual foundation, making the clients seem pathological, making spectacular interpretations of the signs, avoiding anything that does not support her own conclusions, ignoring clients’ perspectives and clients’ resources, etc.

This can even result in clients being thought of as unco-operative as they do not respond to the investigators’ suggestions, offers of care, etc.

From this viewpoint, evidence is produced which supports the investigators’ own understanding of reality, that is to say, her interpretation of the client and her situation.

A possible interpretation is that the investigator uses persecution strategy to be able to be the one who defines reality. (See, for example, Jansson & Rönnbäck, 1995; Skog 1996).

Influencing and persuading the reader

Trying to influence and persuade the reader is one of the main features of the investigator’s line of action. The investigator tries to influence the reader to reach the same conclusion as she has with regard to the client’s situation. The investigator avoids definitions and descriptions of situations if, by doing so, her own assessment gains in credibility. The investigator exaggerates possible negative consequences, enlarges on her own positive effect, uses propaganda techniques, generalises situations to her own advantage, etc.

This line of action probably results in the development of various persecution strategies.

"Universal techniques"

From the analysed material two techniques become evident, which are used together or independently in all of the strategies found. One of the techniques is withholding. That is to say withholding information that is of a positive nature from the client’s point of view and which does not support the decision/view of the authorities. The other technique is fabrication, that is to say, the investigator exaggerates or fabricates data with the intention of persuading the reader that the investigator’s conclusion is correct, and that the right decision has been taken in the investigation.

The techniques complement each other and work together. If an investigator, for example, avoids source references and instead refers to "one", "many", "more," "few", etc., regarding something, the withholding and fabrication techniques jointly give the reader an inaccurate picture of the situation. If one uses both withholding and fabrication techniques, a "double" effect is achieved. The techniques complement each other until the distortion of reality reaches a high level. That is to say, withholding and fabrication techniques lead to the fabrication of evidence to a greater or lesser extent. Fabrication of evidence means that one creates evidence by, for example, lying, giving rein to one’s imagination, exaggerating, avoiding references to sources, etc., for the benefit of one’s own point of view. (cf. Edvardsson, 1996b ).

Fabrication of evidence can in turn lead to the investigation being biased, non-factual and inaccurate. Data show that the less the investigator has in the way of facts, the greater will be the fabrication of evidence.

To achieve greater clarity, the 56 strategies found are placed in six groups according to their purpose and similarities. These are:

  • . Influencing the reader through language

  • . Making the client seem pathological

  • . Ignoring objectivity aspects

  • . Exercising power and control

  • . "The authorities know best"

  • . "Feel-believe-think-experience- interpret"

Influencing the reader through language

The group comprises 12 persecution strategies. All of the strategies are used so that, through the use of language, the reader ends up with the same opinion as the investigator already has. By her way of writing, the investigator steers the thoughts of the reader. The investigator makes clear what she wishes to emphasise in the text by linguistic manipulation. In a normal literary text, it is not wrong to do so, but in an investigation the text should be factual and objective, and linguistic manipulation should therefore be avoided.

The investigator utilises rhetorical strategy, that is to say that her linguistic ability is utilised to influence the reader in a particular direction. Through implying certain information, the investigator steers the investigation.

Positive-negative argumentation strategy is an effective argumentation style that is particularly used by investigators. The strategy is difficult to detect and uses the reader’s feelings in order to persuade. At first Elizabeth and her situation are described in positive terms, then she is to denigrated with the excuse that she falls outside the framework of "the normal".

Through the generalisation strategy it is evident that the investigator uses categorical assertions by the use of such words as no one, never, all, always, etc. There is even evidence that a single instance in a certain situation is generalised so as to apply in all situations. Elizabeth’s behaviour in crisis situations is generalised through the investigator’s subjective interpretations to be applicable in all situations.

In the strategy of selective use of indicators of uncertainty, the investigator distorts material/information to her advantage. The reader is manipulated by the investigator’s assuredness in her assumptions, and likewise the investigator’s uncertainty regarding positive information about Elizabeth.

In the repetitive strategy, the investigator repeats specific strategic words and phrases, and thus achieves a propaganda effect. When an investigator repeats evaluations sufficiently often, they can become facts to the reader. In the hammer strategy, the investigator uses favourite words in describing Elizabeth so that the point is "hammered" into the reader. One of the investigators uses the multi-minus strategy in a summing-up of Elizabeth. She is assumed to have many negative characteristics that are described in the investigation. These characteristics are repeated several times without giving details or providing a factual basis. By making trivial statements in a context that is negative for the client, the client is portrayed as negative.

In contrast strategy, the argumentation has a black-white character, with the purpose of denigrating Elizabeth. Contrasting between different circumstances is used to this end.

In the negative synonym strategy, the negative reinforcement strategy has been developed more so that several synonymous negative reinforcement words are used in describing Elizabeth.


Making the client seem pathological

In this group there are eight strategies. The strategy of making the client seem pathological is the dominant strategy and is used many times in the investigation material. Through this strategy the client/s is/are portrayed as being in need of help. Throughout the investigations the investigator portrays Elizabeth as being mentally ill, different, impulsive and in need of care in different ways. The underlying purpose is to influence the reader to come to the same conclusion and decision as the investigator.

Persecution through the fundamental attribution error is evident in that the investigator, the staff at the women’s clinic, the staff at family clinics, etc., have noticed certain behaviour in Elizabeth but, on reporting this behaviour, have overlooked the effect of such aspects as environment, situation, etc. has on Elizabeth. The way the reports are made make it appear that it is Elizabeth’s own attributes that cause her to act in the way that she does. No consideration is given to the fact that most of the observations have not been made in Elizabeth Edner’s natural environment.

In the scapegoat strategy, the authorities blame the client for everything. The investigator identifies Elizabeth as the cause of the problems that arise and even of the authorities’ failure to help her.

The strategies of making the client seem peculiar and making the client’s behaviour seem too intense combine in the investigator’s description of Elizabeth and result in a situation where the investigator uses them in the therapy strategy. From the point of view of objectivity, the strategy of calling attention to non-existent "facts" together with its sub-categories is unacceptable. It is irrelevant to name situations, behaviour, characteristics, etc. that a client does not have or does not find herself in, in the context of an investigation.

In some situations in the investigation material, it is evident that the investigator ignores Elizabeth’s criticism with regard to being aggressive, impulsive, mentally unstable, etc. By declaring that the client is sick, the investigator can explain away the client’s criticism as an expression of mental disturbance. Implying that the client’s criticism stems from her pathological condition contravenes Swedish law.

Ignoring objectivity aspects

This group contains 16 strategies, all of which ignore elementary factual aspects and thereby contravene the Constitution Act, chap.1, §9.

Through the suppression strategy the investigator creates a false picture of the situation. One of the results of the strategy of ignoring the client perspective is that important facts and data regarding the client are not brought out. The investigator ignores the client’s wishes, perceptions, experience, ideas, resources, network, etc. This strategy provides evidence of "us and them" thinking within the social welfare service. It is against the law to ignore the client’s perspective.

By the use of vagueness strategy the investigator does not observe objectivity. The investigator expresses herself vaguely and imprecisely throughout the investigation material and thereby leaves the reader to interpret the material in his/her own way.

To get the text to fulfil her own objective, the investigator can use a strategy of gradually suppressing details, for example, an anonymous report is described in the investigation in such a way as to make it less noticeable. The question is whether that particular investigator considered that the information was too incredible for the reader to take it seriously.

A serious mistake in the investigation is that clear source references are frequently lacking.

In the strategy of using the impersonal form, the investigators omit the subject or use "one". So the reader is unable to check the content with the source. Without the sources, the investigation is worthless. In exaggeration strategy, the material is adjusted knowingly or unknowingly to support their own theories. The purpose of the quantitative strategy is to give the reader the impression that the investigators have done a thorough and comprehensive job.

With the help of the strategies of giving rein to one’s imagination and of lying, the reports in the investigation have been changed. The first is used to reinforce the authorities’ own opinions and to steer the reader’s thoughts.

The strategy of gradual intensification is a special version of the generalisation strategy. The investigators reinforce the certainty of the consequences of a situation to support their own opinions and conclusions.

By use of the strategies of collecting negative historical events of little or no relevance and of presenting irrelevant information, the reports/situations are developed to denigrate the client and manipulate the reader. The investigators ignore the accepted principles when it comes to limiting oneself to relevant facts and following ethical requirements, which means that one respects those who are the subject of the investigation. One investigator in particular uses the implicit theory strategy when she describes Elizabeth and her situation. The investigator puts forward her conclusions that Elizabeth is isolated, aggressive, has difficulty in relations with others, etc., as if it were the truth.

By the use of the strategy of exploiting and exaggerating events, different types of signs and events are portrayed as evidence that observations and perceptions of the investigators, or the ones referred to, are the correct ones.

In presumptive strategy it is presumed that something applies and one subsequently seeks actively to find signs or arguments in further support of one’s presumptions. One investigator in this case proposes that Elizabeth is unsuitable as the custodian of her child and that the only alternative is to place the child in a foster home.

In the strategy of referring to unspecified others, the investigator utilises unspecified "voices" to demonstrate that more than just her have come to the same conclusion. To simply refer to "others" is unacceptable and gives the impression that the investigator is giving free rein to her imagination.

Exercising power and control

This group contains six strategies which have in common that they are all lines of action for how persons in authority exercise power and claim to control the clients’ lives. The all-embracing strategy is control and power strategy, which, for example, is evident in a situation where the foster home is encouraged to hide the child’s passport so that Elizabeth cannot get at it.

In the strategy of trying to accuse the client of lying, the persons in authority endeavour to catch Elizabeth out when lying.. In the case of provocative strategy one creates situations in events which in different ways make the client behave in a way which can subsequently be used against her. Elizabeth is provoked by the authorities’ demands for home visits, the investigator’s misleading description of her, and the investigator’s occasional superior attitude towards her, etc.

In the antidemocratic strategy, the investigator ignores the client’s democratic rights, for instance, of expression, thereby contravening the law.

The strategy of insulting valuations and comments is revealed in, for example, generalisations of an insulting nature that can damage people. The material shows that investigators, referees, social secretaries, and others frequently make unprofessional and disparaging statements about Elizabeth and her situation.

In the case of the strategy of restricting the credibility of others’ opinions, one rejects people and information that contradict the opinion of the authorities by suggesting that the information is not valid in the particular instance. Elizabeth’s views are also ignored with the excuse that she is too unstable mentally, too aggressive, and lacking in understanding, etc. to be aware of what is best for her.

"The authorities know best"

In this group there are five strategies all of which are designed to show that the authorities "know best". In the strategy of exceeding the limits of one’s competence, the investigator expresses opinions about things she is not qualified to comment on.. In that case, the reliability of these opinions can be questioned. A possible explanation for exceeding the limits of one’s competence may be that the strategy of over-confidence in oneself and others is used. The investigator has complete faith in her own judgement, which is demonstrated by the cocksureness of her opinions, which neither include uncertainty indicators nor provide any factual basis. There are plenty of opinions that lack any explanation as to how the person in question came to his or her conclusion.

Overconfidence in authorities and experts is evident in that the investigators believe everything that is said by them without critical assessment of their opinions, testimonials, evidence, etc. An example of this is that a psychologist is given much space and influence within the report after having met the mother of the foster family and Anne on one occasion for a duration of 1 ½ hours.

By use of moralising strategy the investigator’s inferred morals are evident in the text of the investigation and are used as an argument against the client. The investigator overlooks how common the phenomena are amongst other families and children and, instead, presents them as great shortcomings in Elizabeth’s capacity to take care of her child. Elizabeth’s various behaviour patterns are exaggerated because of her contact with the social welfare service.

Within the strategy of emphasising the resources of the social authorities, the said resources are given prominence, e.g. the foster home, whilst the client and her resources and network are toned down.

It comes out in the investigation material that the investigator/s is/are trying to justify themselves and others when they realise that they have utilised more forceful actions than were necessary. Through this strategy the client is denigrated and is held responsible for the consequences.

The influence persons in authority have when reaching a decision about measures to be taken is played down.


This group contains nine strategies, all of which are affected by the investigators’, and others’, own experiences, feelings, arguments, interpretations, predispositions, etc., thereby creating non-factual and unreliable bases for decisions. Another thing they have in common is that they are seldom presented as the investigators’ and others’ experiences and interpretations but are, instead, described as objective observations.

By the strategy of stressing one’s own experience, the investigator puts forward her own experiences and arguments to persuade the reader to accept her point of view. This method contravenes the Constitution Act, chap 1 §9, and should not be used in the context of investigation.

By use of the strategies of ascribing an experience and a negative attitude to the client, the investigator projects herself as an understanding person and creates her own explanations for the client’s behaviour, which are subsequently used against the client.

In the strategy of making vague references to experience, the investigator presents her various experiences to the reader without saying who has experienced what.

By the use of interpretation strategy, the investigator puts forward her interpretations without providing any factual basis. The interpretations are affected by the investigator’s established opinions and even by perceptual distortion, that is to say that the investigator and others both see and hear what they expect to see and hear even though reality may not coincide with what they see and hear.

In the strategy of using strategic interpretation, the investigator justifies the conclusion already reached beforehand, thereby running the risk of overlooking alternative interpretations which are readily lost in the case of superficial inspection.

The investigator exaggerates certain relationships and withholds others, so that her own interpretations are projected as the correct ones.

In the strategy of using signs as evidence, trivial signs are exaggerated and used amongst other things as a basis for reporting. In this strategy, the addition principle is sometimes used, that is to say trivial, imagined signs are accumulated and easily result in "demonstrating" what one wishes to show in a non-factual interpretation.

The strategy of interpreting everything negatively is utilised when the investigator wants to show that Elizabeth is driven by impulses, as she does not want to make a study visit to a clinic. An alternative interpretation is that Elizabeth made a risk analysis and concluded that there were too many risks involved in a visit to a clinic where there were HIV-infected people in residence.

In the negative prognosis strategy, the investigator asserts that Anne must be separated from Elizabeth to avoid injury, and that Elizabeth cannot give Anne a good future or fulfil her needs. By taking this line of approach, the investigator obtains an explanation for her opinions and behaviour.

8.1.1 Variations and similarities between the official reports

The official report from 1991-04-08 contains the most persecution strategies. Not simply on account of its being a large report, but also because the administrator is extremely subjective in her explanations and interpretations, which are also expressed as if they were the truth. The positive-negative argumentation strategy comes out clearly in the investigation the strategy of collecting negative historical events of little or little relevance is used extensively. The administrating investigator is also responsible for the reports of 1990-11-28 and 91-01-31 All three reports are characterised by the investigator’s arguments. Positive-negative argumentation strategy is clearly in evidence and appears to be a favourite of the investigator. The investigator has an eloquence that is perhaps specific to this LVU case. Rhetorical strategies are clearly evident and used throughout; hence, the name "The Rhetoric Case".

The client’s perspective is poorly accounted for, and source references are lacking throughout all three reports.

In the official reports 1994-11-29, 1995-10-23 and 1996-06-14, another social secretary is in charge of the case. This is obvious even in the presentation of these reports. The client’s perspective is better accounted for, and there are also references to resource analyses.

The official report 1995-10-23 lacks source references throughout. The sources are handled naively and uncritically. The investigation is remarkable in that many of the references are repeats from previous investigations. The previous administrator’s views are mixed up with the new ones.

This result makes me wonder how this would have looked if the administrators had changed places. Would other conclusions have been reached and other actions taken? This, we can only philosophise over. A possible interpretation of the difference between the official reports is that the administrator has a great impact on the outcome of an investigation, that the investigator has considerable power to influence the investigation in the direction of (his) her own subjective point of view.


8.2 Development of a persecutory work approach

Why and how the persecution strategies arise is a question I consider myself insufficiently knowledgeable to answer. I shall now take up the theories which I believe best explain why persecution strategies make an appearance.

Data provide evidence of a power struggle between the client and the investigator. The investigator exercises power by putting forward and angling those facts that most strongly promote taking the child into care. The investigator can deliberately ignore positive facts about the client. The client can threaten the investigator’s position and illicit defensive behaviour, particularly if the client is an academic who is assertively critical. To exercise power over the client becomes more important than proving a point. The investigator tries to compensate, rationally or irrationally, (his) her loss of power by using the persecution strategies. (Compare Edvardsson, 1989).

One possible explanation for the appearance of the persecution strategies is that the investigator experiences frustration, a feeling which arises when your own or other needs, demands or goals are unfulfilled, which sometimes leads to aggression.

Aggression is the result of a person having the perception that he has been provoked and that the intention was to provoke. This understanding equips the person with grounds for blame, hostility and possible revenge. By these thought processes people can create enemies and justify aggressiveness towards them. Such thought processes can make a person with highly perceived morals behave in an aggressive fashion. (Compare Smith, 1993, chap.19), for ex.

There are many different thought processes people use in order to avoid feeling guilty.

  • The creation of a "moral self image" makes them perceive themselves and their own group as defenders of "what is good" and, thanks to this perception, justifies their own aggressive behaviour.

  • "Diffusion of responsibility", that is to say the group makes a common decision, so that no individual person in the group will have to take responsibility for the decision they have made.

  • Dehumanisation, viewing a person as an object without feelings, and thereby avoiding experiencing that an individual has been hurt.

  • "Making the victim into the devil "

  • Putting all the blame on the victim, indicating that the victim has herself caused the situation and has only herself to blame.


There are many theories about how people attribute reasons and characteristics. The way that the investigators attribute the causes to Elizabeth’ s situation and person explains I believe, the development of the persecution strategies.

There is ample evidence in the material that the assessors are responsible for having committed the fundamental attribution error on several occasions. The assessors create a negative picture of the mother and her situation by using their hypotheses and the strategy of persecution by use of the fundamental attribution error. Even the reader creates attributions from the text. By using persecution strategies, the investigators are able to methodically influence the reader’s attributions and transfer their arguments and perceptions. The attributions become a tool for the investigator to influence the reader. If the reader doesn’t create attributions, the persecution strategies would be useless. (Compare Eriksson and Wiesel, 1997)

Angelöw and Jonsson (1990, p 46) explain Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory, "If cognitive disharmony is created when the individual receives, for instance, new information, this theory claims that the individual tries to eliminate or restrict the effect by the addition of further cognition, change existing, or act in a manner which promotes harmony."

Some data provide evidence that this phenomenon arises when the different investigators handle the information. The investigators avoid situations, thoughts and attitudes that could threaten the opinion that Elizabeth is a bad mother who is unable to care for her daughter. Otherwise the investigators could experience doubts or unpleasant feelings.

The investigator and others in the investigative work can be subject to errors of thought (see section 4). These errors of thought are likely to strong influence the investigators and others to use persecution strategies in the investigative work.

One particular investigator in this case has a fluency of speech that is used when Elizabeth is defamed. Her manner of relating events is similar to that used in advertising and propaganda. In these connections, more or less emotionally charged words are used, which are normally used to encourage us to buy a product or to affirm a message.

It would appear that the investigators use language in the same way, to persuade, and opinions by medical consultants, etc., to confirm their opinion (cf. Ivemyr & Lindwall, 1995).

In advertising and propaganda, values are put forward that are difficult for the reader to decide whether they are true or false. Andersson and Furberg (1984) describe the principle of the sender’s trustworthiness. This principle makes it easier for the investigator to use persecution strategies. Edvardsson (1996, p173) argues "There is always a well used rhetoric which will justify every kind of persecution."

One possible interpretation is that "group-think" is prevalent in the social welfare service in this case. Some of Janis’ symptoms are evident in the text.

Symptom 2: The investigator ignores ethical and moral consequences of his decisions, which is evidence of an unquestionable faith in the presence of moral values in the staff employed by authorities.

Symptom 4: The investigators show that they have a stereotype view of Elizabeth as the "enemy", which is accentuated by making her seem pathological, as too evil and aggressive to be able to be accommodating and friendly.

Symptom 6: There is a shared illusion of unity concerning interpretations that are adjusted to comply with the view of the majority. The investigator feels that the social welfare service is right behind her. This is evident from the fact that the investigator avoids information that goes against the view of the majority and the investigator.

Even Janis’ symptoms that demonstrate poor ability to make decisions in a group are evident in the investigation.

  • The investigator makes unsatisfactory surveys of alternative actions.

  • The investigator and others do not test the objectivity of the investigation.

  • The investigator fails to explore the risks resulting from the chosen decision.

  • The investigator fails to explore previously rejected options.

  • The investigator fails to use certain sources of information, such as a paediatrician, a psychologist, an ambassador.

  • The investigators have prejudices that influence information processing. They choose to use information that supports taking Anne into care and ignore information that does not support their perception of the case.

  • The investigators have no alternative but to issue a care order for Anne.

It is possible that the high conformity of the group explains the development of persecution strategies. Conformity means that individual attitudes, behaviour and opinions are adapted to a group standard. The individual seeks approval from the group and avoids rejection from the group. ( See, for example. Smith, 1993).

The group employed, for instance, in a social welfare office may have adopted some conformity influencing the individual's thoughts and actions. Norms as to how the administrator should handle cases are created. If the conformity becomes too intense, the set norms can prevent constructive thinking. Instead, stereotype thinking is developed, which influences the investigation. When critical thought is prevented by the conformity of the group, it is easier for the investigator to use methods that involve persecution.

Inside cultures of organisations several phenomena may emerge that influence the development and maintenance of persecution strategies. Moxnes (1987) has reached the conclusion that anxiety exists among the members. The anxiety is created by those in power, while those at the lowest end of the hierarchy experience most anxiety. To avoid anxiety, social defence works and social defence mechanisms are created, for example, the creation of scapegoats.

An administrator within the social services has to be the "controller" and the "helper" at the same time, and this can be very difficult to handle intellectually and emotionally. Socialworkers are often exposed to too high a workload, which can lead to stress. This in turn can lead to the client and the social welfare ending up in a vicious "stress spiral", which can lead to the weaker person being crushed by the more powerful person (compare Edvardsson, 1989).

In society there are many pressure groups like the media, government, political groups, who all indirectly influence the work of the social worker. The society has norms, values, thought patterns that may disturb the work of investigation.

Ylander and Larsson-Lindman (1981) argue that the development of society is proceeding towards increased technocracy and dehumanisation. The result of this is that you look at the individual as an object rather than a human being with feelings, and opinions etc. One needs knowledge of technology and economy to obtain high posts in the social hierarchy. The technological thought process influences social work (see, for example, Edvardsson 1984), and this can be one reason why the perspective of the client is often missing.

Below I have summed up my thoughts about possible reasons why the persecution strategies are used, with the help of existing theories and of information from the text analysis. This is done by putting forward the following hypotheses:

"The compensation hypotheses"

When there are few arguments pertaining to a particular case, the existing ones are repeated over and over in the investigation. The investigators use fabrication of evidence to give the investigation the air of being well thought through and thoroughly considered. The reader gets the impression that there are many more arguments than there really are (see, for example, Ivemyr and Lindwall, 1995).

"The communication breakdown hypotheses"

The co-operation between client and authorities evolves from having been good to total breakdown. The client discovers that the way she is portrayed in the investigation is misleading, her statements are changed or withheld, which leads to her feeling bitter and suspicious towards the authorities. The investigator perceives a reluctance to co-operate on the part of the client. This in turn leads to an even more negative view of the client, which is mirrored in the investigation. A vicious circle arises and the communication breakdown is a fact (compare Stenberg,1995).

"Group-think hypothesis"

Group-think in the shape of negative chatting about the client appears within the organisation and this prevents critical thought and influences the creation of persecution strategies.

"Dissonance hypothesis"

The investigator experiences dissonance when positive information about the client is put forward. In order to eliminate this feeling, he (she) avoids listening to the kind of information which increases the feeling of dissonance. Instead, existing negative information about the client is exaggerated, and this creates irrelevant evidence that the decision already made is the correct one.

All this to create consonance (harmony). (See Festinger’s dissonance theory in Smith, 1993)

"The help hypothesis"

The investigator experiences a sense of well being through "rescuing" children at risk. The investigator turns the mother/parents into the "evil factor" that must be eliminated at any cost.

The investigator sees himself as the irreplaceable "rescuer in need", and therefore does what he has to do even if it is wrong.

"The ignorance theory"

The investigator lacks knowledge of current assessment methodology and critical thinking.(compare Jansson and Rönnbäck,1995)

"The conflict theory"

There is a power struggle between the client and the investigator. To compensate the sensation of loss of power and to take revenge on the client, the investigator uses persecution strategies.

"The projection hypothesis"

Work with the LVU-investigation has caused anxiety to the investigator. To reduce the anxiety is projected onto the client. (Compare Sivik, 1990)

"The work situation theory"

The investigator has a demanding job that causes anxiety and stress. The thought processes deteriorate as a result of stress, and she is therefore unable to perform an impartial and objective investigation.

"Attribution hypothesis"

Through the process attributions, it becomes evident that the investigators do not introduce people who may make the situation more advantageous to the clients under investigation. This method may be interpreted as a way for the investigators to try to get support for their own hypothesis, and is one of the reasons why the persecution strategies arise." (Eriksson and Wiesel, 1997,s.38)

"Meta-cognitive impairment hypothesis"

Persecution strategies arise because the attribution, perception and cognition of the investigator are at fault and lead to defective critical thinking. In other words, the investigator think about his own thought processes, memories, feelings, actions, etc., in a critical manner. Ashcraft (1994, p 66) defines meta-cognition: "The term refers to the awareness and monitoring of one’s own cognitive system and its functioning."

There is a relationship between cognitive processes and meta-cognitive processes. If a person’s awareness, energy, exists in the cognitive processes, then the person is not aware of his own potential errors of thinking, prejudices, etc. An imbalance occurs. When the balance between the processes is good, meta-cognitive thinking a critical quality control of one’s own thoughts.

One or more of these hypotheses may apply. It may vary from case to case, and from investigator to investigator. Some of the hypotheses are more speculative in nature, such as the "Help hypothesis". The hypotheses I consider to be the most valid are the "Communication breakdown hypothesis", "Dissonance hypothesis", "Attribution hypothesis" and "Compensation hypothesis."

  1. Conclusions

There is a general lack of fundamental investigative methods in the official reports that have been examined. Clarity, purpose/the questions at issue, specific details, the perspective of the client, reference to sources, the setting up of hypotheses are missing throughout, resulting in a loss of reliability. The investigators fail to satisfy the requirements of objectivity and impartiality prescribed by the Constitution Act, Chap. 1, §9, as the basis of decisions in the investigation. The handling of this case includes persecution strategies.


The Edner Case


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