Identity work : young disabled people, family and sport

Fitzgerald, H and Kirk, David (2009) Identity work : young disabled people, family and sport. Leisure Studies, 28 (4). pp. 469-488. ISSN 0261-4367 (

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It has long been recognised that family is an important arena in which sporting tastes and interests are nurtured. Indeed, for many young people the family introduces them to and then provides ongoing support for engaging in sport. Research has also indicated that the family has a significant position in the lives of young disabled people. In this paper we explore the interrelationships between sport, family and disability. Like a number of writers within disability studies we see the benefits of moving beyond a structure/agency dichotomy that currently limits social and medical model understandings of disability. In particular, we draw on the work of Marcel Mauss and Pierre Bourdieu both of whom argued that social life can be better understood by considering the embodiment of individuals through their habitus. We draw on data generated in an interview‐based study with 10 young disabled people to explore the ways in which family contributes to, and mediates, sporting tastes and interests. We consider two key questions: How do young disabled people negotiate relations within the family and in what ways do these relations influence sporting tastes and interests? To what extent are young disabled people able to use sport to generate and convert (valued) capital within the family and other related arenas?