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Social identity in people with multiple sclerosis: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research

Alex B. Barker (Post-Graduate Research Student, based at Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Roshan das Nair (Consultant Clinical Psychologist & an Honorary Associate Professor, based at Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.)
Nadina B. Lincoln (Professor of Clinical Psychology, based at Division of Rehabilitation and Ageing, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Nigel Hunt (Associate Professor, based at Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Social Care and Neurodisability

ISSN: 2042-0919

Article publication date: 4 November 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

Many aspects of the self are lost as a consequence of having multiple sclerosis (MS). A person's identity can be altered by negative self-concepts, which are associated with poor psychological wellbeing and can lead individuals to reconstruct their sense of self. The Social Identity Model of Identity Change argues that previously established identities form a basis of continued social support, by providing grounding and connectedness to others to facilitate the establishment of new identities. Family support is a salient factor in adjustment to MS and may enable the establishment of new identities. The purpose of this paper is to investigate identity reconstruction following a diagnosis of MS.

Design/methodology/approach

A meta-synthesis of the qualitative literature was conducted to examine the relationship between identity change and family identity of people with MS and other family members.

Findings

In all, 16 studies were identified that examined identity change and the family following a diagnosis of MS. Coping strategies used by people with MS and their wider family groups, affect the reconstruction of people's identity and the adjustment to MS. Receiving support from the family whilst a new identity is constructed can buffer against the negative effects of identity loss.

Practical implications

The family base is strengthened if MS-related problems in daily life are adapted into the individual and family identity using positive coping styles.

Originality/value

This review provides an interpretation and explanation for results of previous qualitative studies in this area.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Disclosure: Alex B. Barker, PhD studentship was provided by the MS Society (966/12).

Citation

B. Barker, A., das Nair, R., B. Lincoln, N. and Hunt, N. (2014), "Social identity in people with multiple sclerosis: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research", Social Care and Neurodisability, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 256-267. https://doi.org/10.1108/SCN-05-2014-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited