‘Who am I?’ How female care-leavers construct and make sense of their identity

Hassett, A. and Colbridge, Alicia K. (2017) ‘Who am I?’ How female care-leavers construct and make sense of their identity. In: 17th International European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Congress 2017, 9-11 July, 2017, Geneva, Switzerland.

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Objectives: Identity formation may be more complex for those who have been in foster care in the face of childhood abuse and trauma, difficult relationships, unstable environments and multiple care contexts but this does not imply there is anything pathological about it. Given the higher levels of mental health difficulties in looked after children and the known role identity has in mental health, whether as a risk or a protective factor, it seems clinically significant to investigate what factors help construct or hinder the formation of identity for those who have been in care. The aim of this research was to explore how female care leavers make sense of their identity development.

Method: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to analyse semi-structured interviews of eight female care-leavers about the understanding of their identity development.

Results: Whilst the journey for each participant was unique, three superordinate themes emerged from the data which reflected the process and outcome of identity development. The outcome of identity development highlighted two dimensions; 1) how individuals saw themselves and 2) how their identity played out practically day-to-day. Three superordinate themes emerged which encapsulated participants’ identity development. These included Construction of identity – How I became me, Understanding of identity – Who am I and Experience of identity – How my identity plays out. A model highlighting the interactional nature of the superordinate themes on identity was developed.

Conclusions: Participants’ construction of identity can be understood in the context of early adverse environments and developmental trauma. This construction of self, in turn mediates how participants understand and experience their identity. Findings were discussed in relation to previous research and limitations were outlined. Implications for future research included giving fuller consideration to the role of developmental trauma in identity formation. Clinical implications encourage understanding of looked after children and care-leavers in the context of developmental trauma, rather than focusing on symptoms of various diagnoses.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology > Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Dr Alex Hassett
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2017 14:30
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2017 14:30
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/16065

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00