Group-Self Identification and Physical Handicap:Implication for Patient Support Groups


  • Jane K. Dixon

    Corresponding author
    1. Dr. Jane K. Dixon is associate professor in the School of Nursing at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
    • Associate Professor, Yale School of Nursing, 855 Howard Avenue, New Haven, CT 06520.
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Relationships between attitudes toward self and attitudes toward handicapped persons based on semantic differentials and social distance measures for one nonhandicapped and five handicapped subsamples (N = 142) are presented, Among persons characterized by amputation, spinal cord injury, or stroke, over one third of the variation in evaluation of self was accounted for by evaluation of persons with handicaps like one's own. Among persons characterized by arthritis or emotional disturbance and among the nonhandicapped, evaluation of self was most closely related to evaluation of the average person. These results indicate strong group identification on the part of persons with more visible handicaps and a tendency toward dissociation on the part of those with less visible handicaps. The finding of high levels of identification within three of the five conditions studied suggests that group techniques may be beneficial in dealing with stigma and quality-of-life issues; the finding of dissociation among persons with other conditions suggests that such techniques should be employed with caution.