Bedtime negotiations: Unravelling normative complexity in hospital-based prevention

Hugo Peeters*, Lieke E. Oldenhof, Wilma van der Scheer, Kim Putters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Downloads (Pure)


This study explores how actors deal with normative complexity in the design and implementation of practices of preventative care. Previous studies have identified conflicting (e)valuations of prevention within health care at large, but little empirical research describes how these conflicts are resolved in day-to-day interactions. Zooming in on the work of a single actor, our ethnographic study describes a Dutch psychiatrist developing a novel type of hospital bed that provides preventative psychiatric care for women in the post-partum period. Drawing on pragmatic sociology of justification, we construe ‘beds’—and the time, people and resources they represent—as points of convergence between conflicting valuations of care. The results show that embedded modes of valuation in a curative hospital setting generate significant normative complexity during implementation. We identify three main strategies through which normative complexity is managed: (a) translating between different modes of valuing prevention, (b) compromising in (material) design of care beds and (c) transcending embedded valuations through moral appeals. By showing the normative complexity of prevention in practice, our study highlights the need for a diverse and situated accounting for preventative care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1082-1100
Number of pages19
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number5
Early online date26 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness.


Dive into the research topics of 'Bedtime negotiations: Unravelling normative complexity in hospital-based prevention'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this