Background: Since perceptions and definitions of violence are context-dependant; the amount of attention society directs at a given social problem affects both how it is perceived and the extent to which it becomes visible in official statistics. But the way in which a problem is defined is also of significance in relation to the measures that are proposed as a means of coming to terms with it.
Aims: The objective is to analyse how the development of WPV as a social problem might be understood.
Methods: On the basis of a contextual constructivist approach, the extent of and trends in complex social problems are viewed as being linked to both actual changes in underlying conditions (the objective explanation) and shifts in perceptions of what the problem consists in and how it should be dealt with (the constructionist explanation). The study of these two explanations requires different types of data. The data employed in this project are drawn from nationally representative victim surveys, articles published in trade journals and occupational injury reports in Sweden.
Results: Defining violence as a societal problem produces a situation where the problem must be resolved by means of legal strategies, which leads to the concealment of the underlying causes. Knowledge appears to exist at workplaces themselves, but these are not given the resources they need to resolve the problem. What we are failing to address are the underlying factors that serve to structure the framework in which these interactions take place.
Conclusion: Although more attention is now being focused on WPV, it appears to be a “top-down” perspective that is determining which measures should be introduced. Defining violence as a societal problem produces a situation where the problem must be resolved by means of legal strategies, which leads to the concealment of the underlying causes of the problem.
Goals: Although the objective of crime prevention today has considerable legitimacy and is furnished with relatively substantial resources, we are at risk of completely failing to prevent violence as a result of having an overly simplistic understanding of the problem. To the extent that we lack both an analysis of the negative effects of social change on the prevalence of WPV and any interest in using measures other than legal strategies focused on individuals, we risk finding ourselves in a situation where measures to combat WPV are restricted to a focus on personal interactions between staff and clients.
The 9th European Congress on Violence in Clinical Psychiatry, Copenhagen, Denmark, October 22-24, 2015