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Caring: Building a psychological disposition in pre-closing sequences in phone calls with a young adult with a learning disability


Correspondence should be addressed to Anne Patterson, Discourse and Rhetoric Group, Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 3TU, UK (e-mail:


This article has a joint focus on the way both psychological dispositions and matters of potential disability figure in interaction. The study works with a collection of more than fifty telephone calls between a young adult with a learning disability staying in a residential placement and three other members of her family. It focuses on the closing sections of the telephone calls and in particular how pre-closing turns may be designed to display caring. This paper analyses three formats through which pre-closings are delivered; through the use of announcements, interrogatives and imperatives. In each case the pre-closing commonly includes an account which provides a warrant for the impending termination. Detailed comparative study of the closing sequences in a corpus of mundane phone calls which do not include a disabled member finds very few such accounts. It is suggested that participants draw on accounts in a way that manages the potentially interactionally troubling matter of closing the call and, more specifically, to build the speakers' affiliative, ‘caring’, stance to one another. The analysis is used to consider broader issues about psychology and interaction, family relations and disability.