University of Illinois at Chicago

Factors in Support Groups that Promote Positive Self-concept Development of Young Disabled Women

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posted on 2019-12-01, 00:00 authored by Norma Jane Mejias
Disabled women face many barriers to achieving and maintaining a positive self-concept and have difficulty making important transitions into adult life. Additionally, women with disabilities must negotiate demeaning gender stereotypes. Previous research has shown that support groups help in the development of positive self-views, but little is known about how the group process assists in the development of these positive self-perceptions. This research investigated factors within group support that help disabled women achieve a positive self-concept as well as transition to adulthood. Those factors were explored through individual interviews with 12 women who were members of online and/or in-person disability support groups. Interviews with 11 group coordinators of in-person support groups for disabled women were also conducted. Results revealed that the women encountered discrimination and inaccurate views of disability from multiple sources and internalized the negative perceptions of others. This resulted in a distorted self-perception about their value and capabilities as disabled women and made it difficult for them to be comfortable with themselves. The support group process helped the women recognize the falseness of what they had come to believe and fostered a more accurate and proud self-view. Group support also enabled some women to situate themselves as part of a larger social collective of disabled women. Factors within the support groups that appeared to influence this newfound sense of self included a relational dynamic that was distinctive and supportive, engagement in an attentive sharing process with similar others, and community membership that included a non-hierarchical leadership style. The women reported their support groups provided both tangible resources and emotional support on their journey to adulthood. Group participation prompted some women to shift their focus from societal approved milestones of adulthood to transitional goals that were subjectively important to them. Most group members preferred the online format. It appears that younger women tend not to pursue in-person support. Group members and group coordinators identified barriers to younger women taking part in face-to-face support. However, according to the participants who did take part in in-person groups, the format appeared to yield similar results to the online support groups.



Gill, Carol J


Gill, Carol J


Disability and Human Development

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Sandahl, Carrie Balcazar, Fabricio Hammel, Joy Rousso, Harilyn

Submitted date

December 2019

Thesis type



  • en

Issue date


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