Female family carers’ experiences of violent, abusive or harmful behaviour by the older person for whom they care: a case of epistemic injustice?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Family carers affected by violent, abusive or harmful behaviour by the older person for whom they care face social and epistemic challenges in developing and sharing knowledge about their experiences. These difficulties have contributed to a situation in which there is a paucity of evidence and public discourse about how we understand violence and harm instigated by people who have care needs or are ‘vulnerable’. This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study that involved twelve indepth interviews with female carers affected by violence, abuse or harm. The study was informed theoretically by Miranda Fricker’s concept of epistemic injustice which was used as a framework for analysis. There were two principal findings: 1) Carers were sensitive to anticipatory stigma and loss of moral autonomy. As a result, they self-censured what they shared and, at times, were met with subtle but powerful processes of silencing. 2) Carers had limited linguistic and conceptual resources to explain the emotional and social aspects of the harm they experienced, exacerbated by implicit social norms about the ‘private’ and gendered nature of familial care. To conclude, we discuss the implications of these findings for sociological research and health and social care practice.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-94
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number1
Early online date12 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • abuse, caring, epistemic injustice, families, older age, violence