Disruptive illness contexts and liminality in the accounts of young people with Type 1 diabetes

Tom Sanders, Jackie Elliott, Paul Norman, Barbara Johnson, Simon Heller

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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We utilise Bury’s (1982) biographical disruption to examine young people’s experiences of type 1 diabetes. Our findings show that young adults adopted various ‘subject positions’ across different illness contexts. The subject positions deployed are intended to produce a particular kind of normal embodied identity unaffected by diabetes. First, participants concealed their illness in public spaces and challenged cultural stereotypes of diabetes to maintain a normal illness biography. Disruption was ever present and required careful negotiation to avoid exposure of illness in public. Young adults upheld a ‘normal public presentation’. Second, they resisted the medical system’s pressure to adhere to glucose targets asserting and maintaining a subject position of ‘independent and autonomous young adults’. Here, disruption was transient and temporary, present in the clinic but not always beyond. It remained in the background for much of the time until it was reinforced by parents or at meal times. Third, young adults acquired a ‘pragmatic subject position’ with diabetes viewed as complex but manageable, no longer a target for resistance. Frank’s (1995) ‘narrative restitution’ is adopted to describe the transition to life with ‘normal’ illness. We argue that illness experience was ‘liminal’ and reflected the subject positions adopted by young adults.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1289-1304
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number7
Early online date9 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2019


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