An Ethnographic-Discursive Approach to Parental Self-Help Groups

Alessandra Frigerio, Lorenzo Montali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mutual aid groups have become a common form of help in the mental health field. Although self-help groups are associated with a range of health and social benefits, they remain poorly understood in terms of the dynamics of their interactions. Adopting an ethnographic-discursive approach, we conducted a 6-month observation of the meetings of a self-help group of parents with children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to analyze the discursive dynamics of the interactions that characterized the group. Using a set of discursive strategies and practices, the parents promoted a homogeneity of viewpoints and experiences within the group and constructed a shared and consensual narrative to endorse a specific understanding of ADHD. The production of both homogeneity within the group and a shared narrative served to absolve parents of guilt, helped parents to signify their experience within a blaming social context, and preserved their identities as good parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)935-950
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • discourse analysis
  • ethnography
  • group interaction
  • Italy
  • knowledge construction
  • qualitative
  • self-help

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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