Brain Impairment


Identity Continuity in the Face of Biographical Disruption: ‘It's the same me’

Barbara Wolfendena1a2 and Marty Gracea3 c1

a1 La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

a2 Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

a3 Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia


In Australia, 20% of stroke survivors are aged less than 55 years. These younger survivors value age-appropriate, identity-affirming goals, such as resuming employment. This article reports on a small qualitative research project that explored the experiences of young, higher functioning stroke survivors in re-establishing identity and returning to work. The participants understood identity as both an inner sense of self and as socially and discursively constructed. The research found that the participants actively pursued identity continuity while managing biographical disruption. Resumption of life roles and responsibilities were important for identity re-establishment, but fraught, particularly the return to work. The findings suggest that psychosocial rehabilitation could play a greater role in supporting survivors’ resumption of valued life roles, including return to work.


  • stroke;
  • return to work;
  • biographical disruption;
  • identity continuity;
  • psychosocial rehabilitation


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor Marty Grace PhD, MSW, BSW, Social Work Unit, School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Footscray Park Campus, Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne 8001, Australia. E-mail: