Juggling Identities of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Motherhood and Paid Work: a Grounded Theory Study

Helle Feddersen, Tine Mechlenborg Kristiansen, Pernille Tanggaard Andersen, Kim Hørslev-Petersen, Jette Primdahl

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


Purpose: To explore how women with rheumatoid arthritis manage their illness, motherhood, and work life.
Methods: A constructivist, grounded theory approach based on individual interviews and participant observations with 20 women with rheumatoid arthritis who participated in work life and had children living at home or were pregnant. After initial and focused coding Goffman’s concepts of social identity were applied.
Results: A core category: ‘Juggling meaningful identities’ and three conceptual categories were developed: 1) Work life as the strongest identity marker; 2) Motherhood: a two-sided act; 3) Living with rheumatoid arthritis as an identity? Paid work, motherhood and illness are linked to the women’s social identities. The women construct and change their identities in interactions with children, partners, other parents, colleagues and employers.
Conclusion: The women attribute the highest priority to their professional identity, spending the majority of their time and energy in an effort to appear as "good stable workers". The disease is seen as a hindrance in this regard, and the illness identity is almost completely rejected. In motherhood, the women prioritise close interaction with their children, and deprioritise external activities. Extended outbreaks of the disease and issues regarding the children force the women to deprioritise working life.
TidsskriftDisability and Rehabilitation
StatusUdgivet - 2018


  • Sygdom, sundhedsvidenskab og sygepleje