PhD defence: Eva Lill Fossli Vassend

Eva Lill Fossli Vassend will defend her PhD degree in cultural studies. The dissertation is about social expectations as determining factors in the identities, relationships and sexualities of intellectually disabled youths transitioning to adulthood.

25 Aug

Practical information

  • Date: 25 August 2023
  • Time: 08.45 - 13.00
  • Location: Porsgrunn, Room B-133 and Zoom
  • Download calendar file

  • Link to digital participation
    Meeting ID: 663 7981 6045
    Password: 663492

    Registration for lunch


    08.45 Trial lecture: Theoretical contributions to the understanding of identity processes in young people with intellectual disability, with particular focus on the importance of social relations, sexual experience, and potential violations and abuse.

    10.00 PhD defence: The power in social expectations. Identity, relationships, and sexuality in the transition to adulthood for young people with intellectual disabilities.

    Evaluation committee

    • First opponent: Anders Gustavsson, Emeritus Professor,
      Stockholm University
    • Second opponent: Johans Tveit Sandvin, Professor, Nord University
    • Administrator: Trude Klevan, Associate Professor, University of South-Eastern Norway


    • Principal supervisor: Ketil Eide, Professor, University of South-Eastern Norway
    • Co-supervisors: Hans A. Hauge, University of South-Eastern Norway and Anna Kittelsaa, NTNU
Any questions?

Eva Lill Fossli Vassend is defending her thesis for the degree philosophiae doctor (PhD) at the University of South-Eastern Norway.

Portrett av Eva Lill Fossli Vassend

She has completed the ph.d programme in cultural studies. The doctoral work has been carried out at the Faculty of Humanities, Sports, and Educational Science.

You are welcome to follow the trial lecture and the public defence on campus or Zoom. If you wish to attend lunch after the defense, you must register by 18 August.


This thesis aims to investigate how youths with intellectual disabilities experience the transition to adulthood and how these experiences affect their self-understanding, independence, and management of risk in situations of vulnerability.

From the point of view of the youth involved in this study, the thesis highlights the consequences of social expectations. The perceptions the youths and their interaction partners have of each other determine who they are and can be for each other. In this context, the youths’ interaction partners are their peers, boyfriends/girlfriends or other intimate relationships, parents and guardians, and the service providers who will support them in the transition. This thesis shows that silence often becomes a typical response to sensitive topics such as their disability, their sexuality, experiences of abuse, and the future consequences of their disabilities, which can create both opportunities and risks for the youths. The opportunities lie in the increased room for action that youths experience when not always divulging, or being open about, every aspect of themselves.  On the other hand, when the young remain silent about sensitive topics in interactions with peers, those they are in intimate relationships with and parents and guardians, the youths’ transition to adulthood may be more difficult, because they must deal with the challenges they encounter on their own, without the necessary support.

The results presented in this thesis are based on data from individual interviews and audio recordings from consultations in the specialist health service’s adult rehabilitation. The youths are primarily concerned with who they are in relation to others and the society of which they are a part. They talk about the hardships and struggles they face to achieve social recognition and a sense of self-worth, particularly regarding three sets of relationships important to them: with their peers, boyfriends/girlfriends or other intimate relationships, with their parents and providers, and with their welfare service providers. In the thesis, the youths are seen as recognition-seeking individuals, and Honneth’s theory of recognition is used to understand their needs. Furthermore, Goffman’s perspectives on impression management and the social interaction order have been fruitful for understanding the youths’ actions to gain recognition for adult identities they see as desirable.