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Constructing social identity through multiple "us and them": a grounded theory study of how contextual factors are manifested in the lives of residents of a vulnerable district in Brazil

Journal article
Authors Natalia Vincens
M. Stafstrom
E. Ferreira
M. Emmelin
Published in International Journal for Equity in Health
Volume 19
Issue 1
ISSN 1475-9276
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Language en
Keywords Inequity, Social determinants of health, Social identity, Grounded, theory, self-rated health, income inequality, relative deprivation, mortality, association, stigma, place, care, stigmatization, homicides, Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Subject categories Environmental Health and Occupational Health


The association between contextual factors and health inequalities is well documented, also in Brazil. However, questions about how contextual factors actually affect health and well-being persist. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore how contextual factors-i.e., social stratification and neighborhood opportunity structures-are manifested in the lives of the residents of a vulnerable district in Brazil. We used a Constructivist Grounded Theory approach based on 12 in-depth interviews. The core category constructing social identity through multiple "us and them" is supported by eight main categories that characterize different pairs of "us and them", based on internal and external aspects of the social processes involved. Our findings strengthen and support the links between contextual factors and health inequalities, highlighting the relevance of downward social comparison, territorial segregation and stigmatization and erosion of social capital in the construction of social identities and the manifestation of social hierarchies and neighborhood structures in the Brazilian context. Ultimately, these create shame and stress but also pride and empowerment, which are recognized determinants of health inequities.

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