Analysing the discursive psychology used within digital media to influence public opinions concerning female child-killers

Kessia Harris, Joanna Adhikari, Louise Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Discursive psychology is used to invoke emotion and
social action within receivers, and widespread media is notorious for utilizing these linguistic features to negatively skew the public opinion of an individual or group.

Objective: This study aims to investigate through discursive thematic analysis the ways in which digitised media articles utilise
linguistic features and discursive devices to invoke emotion within readers, and in turn influence their opinions concerning female child-killers.

Study Design: The data gathered for this piece of research were 9 digital newspaper articles published between 2017 and 2021 by any of the top 10 most-read titles according to YouGov (2021) and were sourced using Google Chrome. The key terms used to
locate these articles were the names “Rachel Henry”, “Tracey Connelly” and “Louise Porton” followed by the names of the top 10 most-read titles (e.g., “Rachel Henry Daily Mail”).

Analysis: The themes identified suggest a consistent aim within the media to negatively influence the public opinion of the offenders in question by using discursive devices and psychological categories to attack and invalidate these offenders and portray them as being evil, inhuman, delusional individuals who are inherently different from “normal” members of society. The findings produced within this research may have implications regarding the future of mainstream media reporting, as they suggest an excessive use of strategically influential linguistic features within digital newspapers to create extreme negative representations of women who offend, which may prove detrimental to their future access to, and experience of reformation and rehabilitation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalThe Journal of Concurrent Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


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