Deaf Adults and Self-Esteem: How We Have Changed

Deaf People Evolving PerspectivesEvolving Definitions: Here’s an interesting psychology-related tidbit to think about. In their book, Deaf People: Evolving Perspectives from Psychology, Education, and Sociology, Andrews, Leigh & Weiner point out how we, as Deaf people, have changed in terms of how we define our self-esteem.

The Old Days: Back in 1974, a study (Sussman) found that Deaf adults who thought they did not speak well, had lower self-esteem levels than other Deaf adults who believed they were skilled in oral communication. These were the days before ASL was recognized as an official language, when Signed Exact English (SEE) and oralism were considered higher forms of communication than ASL.

And Now: Fast forward to the 1990’s and the first years of 2000. This is what several studies (Bat-Chava, 1993, 2000; Maxwell-McCaw,2001) found to be associated with higher self-esteem in Deaf adults: being able to communicate with family in sign language, using sign language in school, having Deaf parents, and having a culturally Deaf or bicultural identity. It is great to see how Deaf people’s self-perceptions are moving in a more positive direction!

  1. Johnk September 21, 2006

    awesome! I always interested in this thing. How people perceive themselves. Oralists still perceive themselves as superior,though.

  2. mcconnell September 21, 2006

    Oralists can also have positive self-esteem as well.

  3. Artis September 22, 2006

    I wonder if that’s the reason why many oralists are suppressing rather than empowering Deaf people? The oralists are not ready to share whatever they have with Deaf people, perhaps?

  4. Noelle September 22, 2006

    I suppose self-esteem in this instance has to do with one’s perception of the abiltiy to “assimiliate” into the larger hearing environment. I’m not saying that oral Deaf people are superior or inferior in this regard, but it really depends on how the Deaf person feels about his or her own communication skills in the setting that the Deaf person is in. For instance, I’m not very proficient in ASL so I do feel somewhat inferior to native ASL signers because I was raised to be oral. So being in a very large Deaf environment where everyone’s signing really fast definitely makes me feel unsure about my own communication abilities.

    It’s different when I’m in an hearing environment where I can use my oral communication skills–it’s easier and feels more comfortable for me, but it’s not without its own sort of social anxieties such as, “This hearing person is speaking too fast! I didn’t hear that word, should I ask him or her to repeat? This man has a heavy mustache and I can’t lipread him very well.”

    Anyways, I really like this blog–it definitely has thought-provoking blog posts.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact Us