Pluralized life courses? An exploration of the life trajectories of individuals with psychiatric disorders

Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2012 May;58(3):266-77. doi: 10.1177/0020764010393630. Epub 2011 Mar 29.


Background: Most of the existing research relating to the life courses of people with psychiatric symptoms focuses on the occurrence and the impact of non-normative events on the onsets of crises; it usually disregards the more regular dimensions of life, such as work, family and intimate partnerships that may be related to the timing and seriousness of psychiatric problems. An additional reason for empirically addressing life trajectories of individuals with psychiatric problems relates to recent changes of family and occupational trajectories in relation to societal trends such as individualization and pluralization of life courses.

Aim: This paper explores the life trajectories of 86 individuals under clinical supervision and proposes a typology of their occupational, co-residence and intimacy trajectories. The results are discussed in light of the life-course paradigm.

Method: A multidimensional optimal matching analysis was performed on a sample of 86 individuals under clinical supervision to create a typology of trajectories. The influence of these trajectories on psychiatric disorders, evaluated using a SCL-90-R questionnaire, was then assessed using linear regression modelling.

Results: The typologies of trajectories showed that the patients developed a diversity of life trajectories. Individuals who have developed a standard life course with few institutionalization periods reported more symptoms and distress than individuals with an institutionalized life trajectory.

Conclusion: The results of this study stress that psychiatric patients are social actors who are influenced by society at large and its ongoing process of change. Therefore, it is essential to take into account the diversity of occupational and family trajectories when dealing with individuals in therapeutic settings.

MeSH terms

  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland