Living Stigma: The Impact of Labeling, Stereotyping, Separation, Status Loss, and Discrimination in the Lives of Individuals with Disabilities and Their Families

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Abstract

In this study, we examine the direct and vicarious impact of the social processes of felt and enacted stigma and their impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. Specifically, findings of interactive interviews with eight adults with disabilities and seven mothers of children with disabilities were analyzed for themes related to components of stigma described by Link and Phelan (2001): labeling, stereotyping, separation, status loss, and discrimination within the context of power differential. Findings suggest that while these social processes can have important negative psychosocial consequences for individuals living with disabilities, the severity of the consequences varies among the components. Findings also indicate that these individuals find varied and creative ways to resist and actively counter the negative effects of stigma in their lives. Findings support the complexity of the experience of stigma and the importance of the socio/cultural context to the lived experience of disability.

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