Perception of stigma and social comparison influences self-concept of people with learning disabilities


Goffman’s seminal work identified social stigma as severe disapproval of a person on the grounds of characteristics they have that tend to distinguish them from other members of the society in which they live.

The researchers in this study were interested in the perception of stigma in 43 adults with learning disabilities and the nature of the relationship between this perception and their psychological well-being, they were also interested to look at whether the process of social comparison had any moderating effect on this relationship.

The 43 participants all completed three self-report measures of perception of stigma, self-esteem and social comparison.

The authors found that perception of stigma significantly related to negative social comparisons. This in turn was also significantly related to low self-esteem.

They found no difference between social comparisons made with other service users and those made with people in the community.

Their hypothesis that social comparison may have a moderating effect on the relationship between stigma and self-esteem.was not proved.

They conclude from this small study that their findings support the idea that the perception of stigma and social comparison does have influence on the self-concept of individuals with learning disabilities.

Stigma, Social Comparison and Self-Esteem in Adults with an Intellectual Disability, Paterson, L  et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 166–176.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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