Influence of a support group for young women with disabilities on sense of belonging

Norma J. Mejias, Carol J. Gill, Carmit Noa Shpigelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Women and girls with disabilities face obstacles to community participation and social acceptance. Consequently, as adolescent women with disabilities mature into adulthood, they may have difficulty feeling that they belong both in the general community and in the community of all women. The positive impact of peer support groups for young women with disabilities on their sense of belonging has been underinvestigated. We conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews with 9 members of a well-established empowerment support group for young women with disabilities to explore how the group might foster a sense of belonging to the general community as well as a sense of shared womanhood. Results revealed that self-confidence and disability pride stemming from participation in the group were essential in helping the women counteract exclusionary messages from the outside world. The group provided an opportunity to develop a positive disability identity and to gain new information regarding the ability and right to identify as women. Reciprocal bonds with other group members helped cultivate feelings of belonging. In turn, the women communicated their empowered identities and the disability rights information they learned in the group to their friends, family, and community members. The group offered the women various platforms to assert their right to belong and, therefore, to participate in the world as women and as independent members of their broader communities. These results show how peer support groups for young women with disabilities can positively influence their sense of belonging both within the group and in the world outside the group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-220
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Counseling Psychology
Volume61
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2014

Keywords

  • Belonging
  • Disability
  • Peer support
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Psychology

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