An exploration into identity formation in young people living with a chronic illness

PhD Thesis

Wicks, S. 2011. An exploration into identity formation in young people living with a chronic illness. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Department of Applied Psychology
AuthorsWicks, S.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDClinPsychol

Section A critically reviews relevant theoretical literature and empirical studies exploring the particular impact of chronic illness on identity formation in adolescents. Theoretical conceptualisations of the adolescent period and of the process of identity formation are explored. Following this, empirical literature regarding the impact of chronic illness on the developmental tasks of adolescence and in particular identify formation will be critically examined. A number of clinical implications are discussed to enable clinicians to effectively support young people and future research directions are outlined.
Section B reports a narrative analysis of young people's experiences of forming an identity with a diagnosis of an adolescent-onset chronic illness (CI). Identity formation is argued to be one of the key developmental tasks of adolescence. Despite implications for adolescent development, research into CI onset during this period has been notably sparse. This study aimed to explore how diagnosis impacts on the developmental tasks of adolescence, what role adolescent-onset CI plays in identity formation, and how adolescents incorporate the diagnosis into their identity. Individual semi-structured interviews were carried out with 8 young people aged 14-19 who lived with a diagnosis of a CI diagnosed between the ages of 12-16 years. Two illness types were studied; crohn’s disease and juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and analysed using narrative analysis. Participant narratives contained five core narrative themes: Walking a different path, tolerating contradiction, a changed interface with others, locating power and a fluid relationship. Narratives were considered to have been influenced by factors such as the interview context and dominant social narratives concerning health and illness. Adolescent-onset CI was found to have a significant, though not exclusively negative, impact on developmental tasks. The findings are discussed in relation to existing literature and potential clinical implications.
Section C critically appraises the narrative study. A discussion begins with reflections on the research skills developed and insights into the research process. Areas of further learning are identified. Implications of clinical practice are explored and the section concludes with considerations for further research in this area.

KeywordsChronic illness; Identity formation; Adolescence; Narrative analysis
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Dec 2011
SubmittedJul 2011
Output statusUnpublished
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