Disability Pride Protects Self-Esteem Through the Rejection-Identification Model

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Abstract

Purpose/Objective: The rejection-identification model (RIM) argues that the negative impacts of stigma, such as decreased self-esteem, may be mitigated when members of the stigmatized group choose to identify with each other rather than with the majority culture. A previously unstudied potential RIM stigma-reduction mechanism is disability pride, which views disability as a source of valuable, enriching, and positive experience. Impairment, personal, and environmental factors based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) predict whether people will categorize themselves as disabled, but predictors of pride have received little examination. The purpose of this study was to (a) explore whether ICF factors predict disability pride, and (b) assess whether disability pride mediates a relationship between stigma and self-esteem, supporting RIM. Research Method/Design: Participants completed an Internet-based survey assessing pride, self-esteem, and ICF factors. Disability was not mentioned in recruitment materials to prevent selection biases. People who reported at least 1 impairment (n = 710) were included in analyses. Results: ICF personal and environmental factors (stigma, social support, and being a person of color), but not impairment factors, predicted disability pride. Supporting RIM, disability pride partially mediated the relationship between stigma and self-esteem. Conclusions/Implications: Disability pride is a promising way to protect self-esteem against stigma. Disability pride is still a rare phenomenon. Given that pride is associated with social support, stigma, and, to a lesser extent, ethnicity, but not impairment characteristics, interventions might focus on personal and environmental factors like these to promote pride.

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