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!

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