Revisiting symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework beyond the grounded theory tradition

Charlotte Handberg, Sally Thorne, Julie Midtgaard, Claus Vinther Nielsen, Kirsten Lomborg

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


The tight bond between grounded theory (GT) and symbolic interactionism (SI) is well known within the qualitative health research field. We aimed to disentangle this connection through critical reflection on the conditions under which it might add value as an underpinning to studies outside the GT tradition. Drawing on an examination of the central tenets of SI, we illustrate with a field study using interpretive description as methodology how SI can be applied as a theoretical lens through which layers of socially constructed meaning can help surface the subjective world of patients. We demonstrate how SI can function as a powerful framework for human health behavior research through its capacity to orient questions, inform design options, and refine analytic directions. We conclude that using SI as a lens can serve as a translation mechanism in our quest to interpret the subjective world underlying patients’ health and illness behavior.
TidsskriftQualitative Health Research
Udgave nummer8
Sider (fra-til)1023-1032
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2015
Udgivet eksterntJa


  • interpretive description
  • qualitative
  • qualitative analysis
  • research
  • research design
  • symbolic interactionism