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Understandings and experiences of visible difference and romantic relationships: A qualitative exploration

Sharratt, Nicholas David; Jenkinson, Elizabeth; Moss, Timothy; Clarke, Alexandra; Rumsey, Nichola


Alexandra Clarke


© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The association between disfigurement (‘visible difference’) and romantic relationships has received relatively little consideration in the research literature. This qualitative research, conducted in the United Kingdom, explored participants’ accounts of their visible difference and romantic life. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 participants who had a variety of visible differences. Inductive thematic analysis demonstrated that participants understood their difference as having a pervasive and enduring impact. These encompassed challenges that must be negotiated in the formation of romantic relationships, including feeling unattractive to others and feeling personally devalued. Relevant physical and sexual sequelae were comprised of anxieties regarding informing partners of a difference, impacted sexual activity, and concerns about heritability. Finally, the potential for partner support and acceptance to positively impact romantic relationships was recognised. This research highlighted the need to extend our understanding of visible difference and intimate relationships and to develop effective interventions to ameliorate appearance-related concern.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Dec 1, 2018
Journal Body Image
Print ISSN 1740-1445
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 27
Pages 32-42
APA6 Citation Sharratt, N. D., Jenkinson, E., Moss, T., Clarke, A., & Rumsey, N. (2018). Understandings and experiences of visible difference and romantic relationships: A qualitative exploration. Body Image, 27, 32-42.
Keywords visible difference, disfigurement, romantic relationships, intimacy, psychology, thematic analysis
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is the author's accepted manuscript. The final published version is available here:


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