Keeping on track: Exploring socio-developmental trajectories of adolescents who experience chronic pain
: (Alternative format thesis)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Adolescence, the transitional period from childhood to adulthood, is characterised by developmental tasks including an increased prominence of peer relationships, and the development of autonomy and identity. Despite a lack of consensus regarding its exact definition, many of the developmental processes which demarcate adolescence extend into the mid-20s, suggesting adolescence be defined as those aged 10 to 25 years old. In addition to normative developmental tasks, adolescents who experience chronic pain can face a range of additional developmental challenges. To address the lack of a comprehensive review, I conducted a scoping review of the literature covering the social developmental domains of autonomy, identity, and peer relationships in adolescents who experience chronic pain. This review identified 42 papers, the majority of which explore peer relationships, with fewer exploring autonomy or identity. Across all domains, there was a lack of detailed exploration, with many papers studying social development more broadly. Additionally, there was a dominance of cross-sectional and quantitative methods across all included papers. I addressed these literature gaps through two empirical studies, which together provide an idiographic exploration of the social development of adolescents who have chronic pain over time, and their perceptions of their future. The first of these was a longitudinal, qualitative study which used a combination of interviews and diaries to explore the experiences and perspectives of adolescents who experience chronic pain in relation to their social development, over the course of 12 months. The second empirical study used a novel first person, future focused story completion method to explore the future narratives of adolescents who have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Collectively, my results suggest that developmental trajectories are altered in the context of chronic pain. Additionally, my results suggest that such alterations involve both constriction and expansion of developmental processes, with the expansions appearing to be driven by the constrictions. The specific impact of the altered developmental trajectories varies between individuals, and also across developmental domains within individuals. These findings have important implications for future research and clinical practice, suggesting the importance of consideration of the relationship between clinical and developmental outcomes.
Date of Award1 Nov 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAbbie Jordan (Supervisor) & Chris Eccleston (Supervisor)


  • chronic pain
  • Adolescence
  • Social development
  • Qualitative methods

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