Of Skeletons and Shells (2)

5: The natural tendency of a residential care establishment is in the direction of increased Shell structuring. 

We now turn to the residential setting itself, with an elaboration of the features of the Skeleton and the Shell modes: 



relating to choices:

choices made for one

individual free to choose

to control:

external control



not responsible for actions

individual responsible for actions

which leads to emphasis on:



Table 4-Pattern of relatedness; individual to group

Further features of such Skeleton and Shell structures now become apparent in the light of this argument:



Characteristics of social structures:

easy to manage

hard to manage



with associated ways of thinking:

magical, symbolic




Table 5-Internal features of culture of Skeleton and Shell communities

6: Both Skeleton and Shell elements are necessary for a normal life

So far, the features of the Shell have come out of this discussion rather badly - and indeed our cultural bias is such as to emphasise the virtues of the Skeleton. I now wish to correct the balance by suggesting that both Skeleton and Shell have their parts to play, and need to be incorporated in the life of the establishment.













Table 6 -Psychological Features of Skeleton and Shell

The above are psychological states: they may or may not be appropriate to the prevailing circumstances, and different people will experience them for different reasons and in different ways. 

7: Everyone-client and staff, strong and weak, old and young-oscillates between Skeleton and Shell

The following diagrams attempt to represent graphically the common forms of oscillation. It should be borne in mind that the vertical line separating the Skeleton 'zone' from the Shell 'zone' is merely a graphical convention, and there is of course no such clear boundary in the real world; and that while the limits of Skeleton and Shell represent the socially-constructed forms that they take, the important consideration for the individual is the extent of movement between his or her personal poles, not the 'absolute' extent to which he or she penetrates into the Skeleton or Shell zones.




Figure 1-Pattern of oscillation of 'normal' person



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To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Doceo; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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