First Advisor

Mel Moore

Second Advisor

Kyle Nelson

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Document Type


Date Created


Embargo Date



The purpose of this project is to learn how University of Northern Colorado students with chronic pain understand their identity formation considering three intersecting factors: their transition to college, their experience of chronic pain, and their ability to engage in common practices associated with university life. Sociology is rich in literature surrounding the experiences of people with chronic illness and pain and their understanding of themselves, but the experiences of college students with chronic pain are limited. This phenomenological study relies on social psychology theories related to illness narratives, biographic disruptions, and, more broadly, self-narratives and self-presentation in its analysis. Participants presented themselves as normal students. They presented positive illness narratives and emphasized the ways they minimize their pain in social and academic settings. The study offers insight into how identity formation can be reliant on one’s social role and performance, interactions with others, and body. In addition, the findings show how life transitions and inadequate social support can intensify the loneliness and insecurity many people with chronic pain experience. The study brings attention to the accommodations, including the practical resources and social support, students with chronic pain need. The study highlights opportunities for institutions to offer adequate supports to people with chronic pain during times of intense life transitions.

Abstract Format



Medicine and Health | Social Psychology and Interaction


75 pages


Fall 2023 Graduate Dean's Citation for Outstanding Thesis, Dissertation, and Scholarly Project

Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the author.

Available for download on Friday, May 01, 2026