Kids, counsellors and troubles-telling : morality-in-action in talk on an Australian children’s helpline

Danby, Susan J. & Emmison, Michael (2009) Kids, counsellors and troubles-telling : morality-in-action in talk on an Australian children’s helpline. In Cromdal, Jakob & Tholander, Michael (Eds.) Morality in Practice : Exploring Childhood, Parenthood and Schooling in Everyday Life. Equinox Publishing Ltd, New York.

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This chapter investigates one instance of ‘morality-in-action’, which transpires when children describe their troubles to the adult counsellors at Kids Help Line, an Australian national helpline that deals specifically with callers aged approximately 5-18 years. We focus, in particular, on how a young female caller who has forged a medical certificate in relation to a problem with school attendance, determines both what to report, and how this should be disclosed. Throughout the call, the moral implications of the troubles talk are delicately managed by both caller and counsellor. The call takes the form of an extended story (Labov & Waletzky, 1997) that includes a preface (‘I have some problems at school’), an orientation (“I was sick, went to the doctor, stayed home”), a complicating action (“I went back to school and photocopied my certificate from last time”), result (“I got caught”) and evaluation (“I don’t know why it happened”). As the account unfolds, we observe how both the student and counsellor seek to make sense of these actions. While this account is partly about deception, both the caller and counsellor delicately sidestep naming this action, precluding this implication. For example, the counsellor lets stand the caller’s main assessment of the trouble. He simply asks, “so what happened then,” when the caller reports that her forgery was discovered. The caller, from the very beginning of the call, seeks to find out why she could have done this, “you see I don’t know why it happened”. As the call unfolds, the counsellor follows the opening provided by the caller and they put forward motives for consideration. By agreeing that the motives are to be explored, the act takes on a character other than deception.

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ID Code: 26650
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: helpline, childhood, counsellor, conversation analysis, morality, social interaction, talk-in-interaction
ISBN: 9781845539306
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > LINGUISTICS (200400) > Discourse and Pragmatics (200403)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Health Clinical and Counselling Psychology (170106)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Institutes > Institute for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 Equinox Publishing Ltd
Deposited On: 05 Aug 2009 03:13
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2015 14:13

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