Moving beyond the 'self' in self-management : the role of sport in facilitating transplant recipients' social networks

  • Carl Bescoby

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Background: Within a growing body of literature evidencing the importance of self-management for transplant recipients, research has often accentuated the individual level outcomes influencing generalised self-management programmes. Yet, understanding transplant recipients’ social networks may be a useful way of moving beyond the individualised self-management programmes, to consider the wider social context. Sport offers ways to develop social relationships and could offer a useful way of facilitating social network structures that may offer support with illness self-management. Yet, there is very little research exploring the impact of sports participation on transplant recipients’ illness self-management networks. The purpose of this study is to investigate transplant recipients’ experiences of participation in Transplant Games events for the first time and to understand the impact this may have on their illness self-management networks over time. Methods: This study employed a longitudinal qualitative social network approach, combining participant-aided network diagram creations (sociograms) with a series of three interviews over a 12-month duration with an international cohort of transplant recipients. A total of 48 interviews and 32 sociograms were completed between September 2018 and January 2020. Data analysis included thematic analysis of the interview data, visual network analysis of the sociograms and longitudinal analysis of both the social networks visualisations and thematic analysis themes to determine changes over time. Results: The findings indicated four types of networks including family-focused, friend-focused, family-friend focused, and diverse-sport focused. Most participants represented either family-focused or friend-focused networks and these two network types were most stable over time. Attending Transplant Games events for the first time, impacted participants’ illness self-management networks through the inclusion of weaker ties. Although weaker ties did not impact on the types of networks participants had, they provided useful functions for buffering negative, relational experiences of close ties and offered opportunities to share stories and experience closeness which promoted sense of longevity. Participants perceived taking part in Transplant Games events to positively impact their illness self-management. Conclusions: Results contribute to an understanding of how participating in Transplant Games events may impact on participants’ illness self-management networks. This study moves beyond the ‘self’ in the self-management and towards an understanding of sport as a psychosocial tool to build and develop illness self-management networks. This study develops and details novel methods in the qualitative social network approach.
Date of Award26 May 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorFiona Gillison (Supervisor), Gareth Wiltshire (Supervisor) & Rachel Arnold (Supervisor)

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