Sixsmith, Judith and Boneham, Margaret (2004) Narrating Women’s Health Identities in the Context of Community Living. In: Narrative, Memory & Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 233-246.

This chapter presents a qualitative exploration of the relationship between
social capital, health and womanhood for a group of younger working class
women in a socially deprived community in Bolton, UK. The project, funded
by the Health Development Agency involved interviews with 25 younger
women aged between 19 and 38 years. Most were single parents of young
children who were currently unemployed. Our research identified the complex
ways in which younger women took ownership of their health within the social
context of family, friendships and community living. Their narratives about
health focused on experiences of motherhood and community living and were
embedded in networks of social capital (Putnam, 1995, 2000). Women’s health
identities reflected social constructions of motherhood and caring, in which
tiredness and depression were seen as normal parts of everyday life. These
women took responsibility for their own and others’ health becoming health
experts in their own right and sometimes critical of medical expertise. Shared
norms located in the common space of this socially deprived community were
a basis for younger women’s choices about lifestyle which were not always
beneficial for individual or family health. The links between health and
community living were made evident in this research emphasizing the
importance of a narratives approach.

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