The possible selves of people with Parkinson's disease

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Karen Hooker


aging. chronic illness

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Personality and Social Contexts


This study was undertaken to investigate the kinds of possible selves held by older people living with a chronic illness, in comparison to a group of healthy older adults. Possible selves are conceptualized within a symbolic interactionist framework, and Leventhal's commonsense model of illness was used to interpret the relationships between possible selves, sense of control, self-efficacy and health behaviors. It was expected that in contrast to healthy older adults, people with Parkinson's disease would report more hoped and feared possible selves concerned with health and that these selves would be reflective of their chronic illness. Self-regulatory behaviors, such as self-efficacy and outcome expectancy were examined as aids in the process of maintaining, achieving or avoiding certain selves. The role of personality, specifically, health locus of control was of interest in its relationship to hoped and feared possible selves, self-efficacy and health behaviors. Finally, this study sought to examine whether having detailed possible selves, and a strong sense of control over health would be related to engaging in health-promoting behaviors for both chronically ill and healthy older adults. Findings showed that there are interesting qualitative differences in the tone and content of possible selves between the two groups; however, there were no significant differences between groups in the number of people reporting different categories of possible selves. The relationships between possible selves and health locus of control are different among the groups, with healthy adults reporting a greater sense of internal locus of control over possible selves, and PD patients attributing control to powerful others in relation to their hoped and feared selves. Results are discussed in light of a recent trend to conceptualize locus of control as an adaptive and dynamic personality disposition, which enables older adults to manage the challenges of aging.