Trying to “manage the excess”: a constructivist grounded theory of hoarding behaviour

Ruby-Granger, V., 2020. Trying to “manage the excess”: a constructivist grounded theory of hoarding behaviour. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Hoarding can have wide-ranging problems for individuals who hoard, their families and their wider community including distress and impairment in functioning (DSM-5; APA, 2013) and family tension (e.g. Wilbram et al., 2008). Hoarding can constitute a public health problem (Frost et al, 2000).

Despite a large amount of research on hoarding since the 1990s, theoretical work centres around the cognitive behavioural perspective (e.g. Frost & Hartl, 1996; Steketee & Frost, 2014a) which relates hoarding to information processing difficulties, beliefs about and attachments to possessions, and learning processes. Although other theoretical perspectives exist (e.g. O’Connor, 2016), much hoarding research focuses on testing hypotheses from the cognitive behavioural model. Additionally, although research also suggests a role for developmental and social factors in hoarding (e.g. Landau et al., 2011), work on hoarding still describes “maladaptive” (Kyrios et al., 2018, p. 311) attachments and “erroneous” (Frost & Hartl, 1996, p. 341) beliefs about possessions which imply that hoarding is a problem within the individual.

Much research on hoarding is also quantitative, focusing on testing possible underlying cognitive deficits in hoarding (e.g. Tolin et al., 2009), developing measurement instruments (e.g. Steketee et al., 2003) and considering the role of specific variables as predictors of hoarding (e.g. Frost et al., 2015). A small but growing qualitative evidence base (e.g. Kellett et al., 2010; Orr et al., 2019) adds detail and nuance to quantitative studies and allows for the perspectives of those who hoard to be considered. However, the development of hoarding and the meaning of possessions have not thus far been studied together from a qualitative perspective.

This thesis attempts to address these issues by using constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 1990; 2014) to explore the development of hoarding behaviours and meaning of possessions in self-identified hoarders. Seventeen participants were interviewed, and twenty-three interviews conducted, with 6 participants interviewed twice. Seven participants were male, and ten were female, with a mean age of 46 (SD=11.09).

The product of this research is a holistic theory which focuses on hoarding as a struggle to manage both possessions and life. Results showed that the emotional impact of life experiences and possessions, and experiences of becoming overwhelmed could prevent managing possessions. For some participants who experienced loss and trauma, hoarding could be both an attempt to cope with these experiences and a further source of loss, struggle and pain. Some participants attempted to overcome their hoarding by resisting temptation to buy and acquire, using formal and informal support and attempting to build a life beyond their hoarding.

Results of this study shed light on which aspects of managing possessions may be most difficult for those with hoarding tendencies, provide insight into an increasingly complex emotional relationship with possessions, and demonstrate how hoarding behaviours may develop from a dynamic interplay of physical, social, developmental and life experience factors. The insights gained from participants who attempted to overcome their hoarding behaviours also give further understanding of how to help those who hoard, for example by understanding the person’s perspective on their hoarding and helping to develop new ways of living and functioning.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Ruby-Granger, V.
Date: August 2020
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 13 May 2021 13:42
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:03

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