Sudden illness and biographical flow in narratives of stroke recovery

Sociol Health Illn. 2004 Mar;26(2):242-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2004.00388.x.


The conceptual framework of biographical disruption has dominated studies into the everyday experience of chronic illness. Biographical disruption assumes that the illness presents the person with an intense crisis, regardless of other mitigating factors. However, our data suggests that the lives of people who have a particular illness that is notably marked by sudden onset are not inevitably disrupted. Extensive qualitative interviews were conducted with a sample of veteran non-Hispanic white, African-American, and Puerto Rican Hispanic stroke survivors, at one month, six months and twelve months after being discharged home from hospital. Narrative excerpts are presented to describe specific discursive resources these people use that offset the disrupting connotations of stroke. Our findings suggest a biographical flow more than a biographical disruption to specific chronic illnesses once certain social indicators such as age, other health concerns and previous knowledge of the illness experience, are taken into account. This difference in biographical construction of the lived self has been largely ignored in the literature. Treating all survivor experiences as universal glosses over some important aspects of the survival experience, resulting in poorly designed interventions, and in turn, low outcomes for particular people.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / psychology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biographies as Topic
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration*
  • Puerto Rico / ethnology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Stroke / ethnology
  • Stroke / psychology*
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Whites / psychology