Construction of meaningful identities in the context of rheumatoid arthritis, motherhood and paid work: A meta-ethnography

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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: To derive new conceptual understanding about how women with rheumatoid arthritis manage their illness, motherhood and paid work, based on a comprehensive overview of existing knowledge, gained from qualitative studies.

BACKGROUND: Rheumatoid arthritis affects several social aspects of life; however, little is known about how women with rheumatoid arthritis simultaneously manage their illness, motherhood and paid work.

DESIGN: Qualitative metasynthesis.

METHODS: A qualitative metasynthesis informed by Noblit and Hare's meta-ethnography was carried out, based on studies identified by a systematic search in nine databases.

RESULTS: Six studies were included. Social interactions in the performance of three interdependent sub-identities emerged as an overarching category, with three sub-categories: Sub-identities associated with (1) Paid work (2) Motherhood and (3) Rheumatoid arthritis. Pressure in managing one of the sub-identities could restrict the fulfilment of the others. The sub-identities were interpreted as being flexible, situational, contextual and competing. The women strove to construct meaningful sub-identities by taking into account feedback obtained in social interactions.

CONCLUSIONS: The sub-identities associated with paid work and motherhood are competing sub-identities. Paid work is given the highest priority, followed by motherhood and illness is the least attractive sub-identity. Because of the fluctuating nature of the illness, the women constantly reconstruct the three interdependent sub-identities.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: When health care professionals meet a woman with rheumatoid arthritis, they should consider that she might not accept the sub-identity as an ill person. Health professionals should not expect that women will prioritize their illness in their everyday life. This could be included in clinical conversation with the women. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number23-24
Pages (from-to)4117–4128
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Journal Article
  • Review
  • Burke and Stets
  • Noblit and Hare
  • chronic illness
  • paid work
  • identity
  • meta-ethnography
  • motherhood
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • qualitative metasynthesis
  • social role
  • Maternal Behavior/psychology
  • Humans
  • Employment/psychology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid/psychology
  • Mothers/psychology
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Female
  • Qualitative Research


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