A Q-methodological study of ‘smoking identities’ amongst UK smokers

Farrimond, Hannah; Joffe, Helene and Stenner, Paul (2010). A Q-methodological study of ‘smoking identities’ amongst UK smokers. Psychology & Health, 25(8) pp. 979–998.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08870440903151080

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0887044...


In contrast to the psychological literature on adolescent smoking, little research has investigated the social identities of adult smokers. This study aimed to identify shared ‘smoking identities’ amongst a sample of 64 British smokers from different socio-economic groups using Q-methodology. Participants were asked to sort 70 items concerning smoking and smokers according to their agreement/disagreement with them. The 64 Q-sorts were then subjected to a by-person factor analysis yielding six factors, with the first four interpretable factors being presented here. Each factor is understood to represent a distinct ‘identity position’. The first two, the ‘addicted’ smoker, and the ‘in control’ smoker, oriented around a biomedical model of smoking as an addictive health risk. The final two, the ‘no big deal’ smoker and the ‘proud’ smoker reflected alternative understandings and values. The identity positions also differed in the extent to which smoking was considered a core part of self-identity. Unpacking the ‘smoking identities’ of current smokers offers the opportunity to devise targeted health promotion.

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