Social construction: Vistas in clinical child and adolescent psychology

Kenneth J. Gergen, Cynthia Lightfoot, Lisa Sydow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We explore here the potentials of a social constructionist orientation to knowledge for research and clinical practice. Dialogues on social construction emphasize the communal origins of knowledge. They stress the cultural basis of knowledge claims, the significance of language, the value saturation of all knowledge, and the significance of relationships as opposed to individuals. An initial illustration of constructionism in action centers on adolescent risk behavior. Such behavior is often constructed negatively within popular writings and the social science and thus ignores the meaning of such actions to the adolescents themselves. Discourse analysis indicates that for adolescents risky behavior serves important functions of enhancing group solidarity and establishing positive identity. A second illustration, exploring the implications of constructionism for therapy, places a strong emphasis on the therapist as a collaborator in the building of meaning. Traditional investments in diagnosis and treatment are replaced with the collaborative creation of new possibilities for action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-399
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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