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Becoming a Paralympian: Identity development and post-traumatic growth through sport

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Academic background
Humanities, Health Sciences
Host campus
Psychological Medicine (Wellington)
Dr Paul Skirrow


A great deal of attention has been given to the negative physical and psychological effects of acquired disabilities, however research into later achievement and success remains extremely limited. While many people with disabilities report a significant impact upon their sense of self after an injury, few studies have investigated how people go on to 'rebuild' their identity in the longer-term.

Among people with acquired disabilities, paralympians represent an exceptional group of people, who go on to achieve significant sporting excellence in their fields. Previous research has suggested that sport can offer a significant 'platform' for recovery and, amongst paralympians, to a new identity as an athlete (Kampman & Hefferon, 2020).

We are seeking a passionate and enthusiastic candidate, who would be interested in pursuing a PhD project into the experiences of paralympians, as part of a wider programme of research into acquired disability and sport and exercise. While you will be part of defining how this study might develop, our current expectation is that the study will involve qualitative interviews with current paralympians from around New Zealand.


Paul Skirrow