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© 2015 Taylor & Francis. In recent years, Talcott Parsons' work has come under renewed scrutiny by sociologists who argue that his concept of the sick role has a role to play in current accounts of health and illness. In this paper we describe the ways in which Australian women who had undergone elective risk-reducing breast surgery (with or without ovarian surgery) spoke about their convalescence. Women presented two contrasting recovery narratives in describing their experiences, with the negative effects of breast surgery either minimised or emphasised. In an effort to explain these differences, we draw upon the Parsonian concept of the sick role and argue that the extent to which women either embraced or rejected the sick role in their accounts was related to the amount of external legitimation they had received from healthcare professionals. We conclude that the concept of the sick role may provide useful insight into women's experiences of risk-management today.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Sociology Review

Publication Date





186 - 198