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The Development of Disability in Community Psychology Research

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As in many fields, conceptualizations of disability have shifted and evolved within the field of community psychology. The current study aimed to capture the historic inclusion of disability groups …

As in many fields, conceptualizations of disability have shifted and evolved within the field of community psychology. The current study aimed to capture the historic inclusion of disability groups over the first 35 years of community psychology research. Articles published in the American Journal of Community Psychology and the Journal of Community Psychology from 1973 to 2007 were coded for the inclusion of research populations within a broad definition of disabilities. In order to capture studies which include persons with disabilities as well as studies of services for persons with disabilities, regardless of the articles definition of disability or lack thereof, the current study included any article which fit its broad definition. This included articles dealing with, sensory, developmental, physical and cognitive disabilities. The resulting findings demonstrate the evolution not only of concepts of disability but of community psychology as a field.

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  • Presented as part of symposium; Conceptualizing Disability: The Role and Uncertainty of Description and Definition Gutierrez, R.E., Gill, C., Back, L., Daley, E. and Keys, C.B.
  • Disability as an element of human diversity is, like sexuality, a more recently embraced concept in mainstream scientific research (McDonald, Keys, and Balcazar, 2007; Dowrick and Keys, 2001; Blanchet, Klinger, and Harry, 2009). Research in psychology around physical and sensory disabilities has historically been limited to rehabilitation and coping, a focus not congruent with the field of disability studies (Olkin and Pledger, 2003). Like many areas which are built around minority and/or oppressed groups, the field of disability studies’ development took place relatively removed from psychology (Lawthom and Goodley, 2005). While the inclusion of disability as an area of diversity has increased in psychology, the psychological study of disability is still often taking place in a rehabilitation model (Olkin and Pledger). Harper (1991) argues that to not incorporate the new paradigm in disability research will not only fail to produce positive understanding of disability but could actually perpetuate the academic divide between able-bodied and disabled individuals.Lawthom and Goodley (2005) suggested that the ways in which mainstream psychology addresses people with disability were exclusionary and counterproductive. They suggested that the way to remedy this problem would be through bringing together the ideas of community psychology and disability studies. Dowrick and Keys (2001) point out that although the fields of disability studies and community psychology have shared similar growth since the 1960s, they have not managed to properly leverage their separate efforts for a collaborative purpose. The authors, like Lawthom and Goodley, see a great deal of possibility in the intersection of disability studies and community psychology. Dowrick and Keys’ (2001) finding that only 12 articles in the four most commonly read U.S. community psychology journals published in the 10 years prior to their paper had disabilities as their primary content indicates that greater attention and research in community psychology needs to be devoted to working with people with disabilities.
  • Cognitive/developmental disabilities made up 1.50% (45 articles) of the community literature and 58.44% of articles coded for disability. Cognitive/developmental disabilities were the most common disability coding. Persons with developmental disabilities made up the majority of cognitive/developmental codes (65.22% of cognitive/developmental disabilities).
  • Physical disabilities made up a small proportion of the overall community psychology articles for the time period (0.67% of all articles). Half of these articles (50%) were articles dealing with physical handicaps in general.
  • When examined over time some interesting patterns emerge.Overall inclusion of disability articles in these two journals peeked in the mid 80s then steadily declined.Throughout the 1970s and 80s cognitive disabilities made up the bulk of these articles, but over the last 20 years they have come to represent a smaller proportion of disability articles.Physical disabilities sees a large proportional increase in the late 80s which lasts until the late 90s
  • As a byproduct of the low level of disability articles is that there has been very few articles which consider disability along with other elements of human diversity (in this study defined as race, gender, and sexuality).This is problematic as a domains of diversity do not exist in a vacuum. If it is the goal of community psychology to understand human experiences, it is important that a greater effort is put in to understanding domains of diversity in the multi-faceted context in which they place in the lives of people.
  • The decline concerning people with physical disabilities may be because the ADA battle is not being conducted at such active level. It may be that SCRA has not been sufficiently open to people with physical disabilities. How many are present at this conference? P
  • Preliminary data indicate that psycho-emotional disabilities may outnumber more traditionally conceived disability populations by 300 to 600% in community psychology.These preliminary data have provided the basis for a far more involved follow up study on the inclusion of psycho-emotional disabilities and the ways in which they have been approached.
  • All inquiries may be directed to rgutie1@depaul.edu
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Development of Disability inCommunity Psychology ResearchPresented by Robert E. Gutierrez& Christopher B. KeysDepartment of PsychologyDePaul University
    • 2. AbstractAs in many fields, conceptualizations of disability have shifted andevolved within the field of community psychology. The current studyaimed to capture the historic inclusion of disability groups over thefirst 35 years of community psychology research. Articles publishedin the American Journal of Community Psychology and the Journalof Community Psychology from 1973 to 2007 were coded for theinclusion of research populations within a broad definition ofdisabilities. In order to capture studies which include persons withdisabilities as well as studies of services for persons with disabilities,regardless of the articles definition of disability or lack thereof, thecurrent study included any article which fit its broad definition. Thisincluded articles dealing with, sensory, developmental, physical andcognitive disabilities. The resulting findings demonstrate theevolution not only of concepts of disability but of communitypsychology as a field.
    • 3. Disability as Human DiversityTraditionally disability has largely been ignored as acomponent of diversity and instead has beenaddressed solely from a medical or rehabilitationapproach.Researchers have pointed out mainstreampsychologys failure to consider disabilitypopulations in an inclusive, productive manner aswell as the potential for community psychology as aperfect venue for such an undertaking (Dowrick &Keys, 2001; Lawthom & Goodley, 2005)
    • 4. The Study A group of coders examined each article of AJCP and JCP from 1975 to 2005 for the population served. •This coding utilized an emergent coding scheme •Coders recorded the each article’s participants and/or service recipients •These codes were later aggregated into more generalizable codes representing populations •Inclusion criteria-- Articles included: ▫ One or more disability populations or ▫ services targeted towards a disability population.
    • 5. Traditional Disability PopulationsIncluded in the articles coded for disability populationsand services4 “traditional” disability populations arose:1.Cognitive developmental disabilities (45 articles)2.Physical disabilities (20 articles)3.Sensory disabilities (3 articles)4.Disabilities not otherwise specified (8 articles)  Discussed disabilities in general or generalized across disability populationsBased on these 4 populations, disabilities comprises lessthan 3% of the total community psychology literature (77articles)
    • 6. Cognitive/Developmental Disabilities Cognitive/developmental disabilities made up • 1.50% all community psychology literature • 58.44% of articles coded for disability Number of Percent of Articles Cognitive/Developmen tal Disability ArticlesTotal Cognitive and Developmental 45 100%People with Developmental 30 65.22%DisabilitiesPeople with Learning Disabilities 8 17.39%People with Intellectual Disabilities 6 15.22%People with Brain Damage 1 2.17%
    • 7. Physical Disabilities• Made up only 0.67% of all community articles• Represented a quarter of all disability articles• Only half dealt with a specific physical disability Number of Percent of Physical Articles Disability ArticlesTotal Physical Disability 20People with Physical Handicaps 10 50.00%(not otherwise specified)People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 3 15.00%People Musculoskeletal Disorders 2 10.00%People with Obesity 2 10.00%People with Multiple Sclerosis 1 5.00%People with Spina Bifida 1 5.00%People with Fibromyalgia Syndrome 1 5.00%
    • 8. Sensory Disabilities• The smallest sector of the disability literature• Only 3 articles appeared in AJCP and JCP between 1973 and 2007 specifically addressed sensory disabilities. ▫ 2 on deafness ▫ 1 on blindness
    • 9. Inclusion over Time
    • 10. Disability & Other Domains of DiversityIntersection Domains Number of ArticlesGender and Physical Disability 5Race and Cognitive/Developmental Disability 2Race, Gender, and Disability 2Gender and Disability (General) 1Race and Disability (General) 1Race, Gender, and Cognitive/Developmental Disability 1Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Disability 1Total Intersections 13 Of all articles focused on disability populations, only 17% dealt with other domains of diversity as well.
    • 11. Discussion: Understanding CommunityPsychology’s inclusion of disabilitiesCognitive and developmental disabilities’ decreaseover time seems to mirror two largerdevelopments1.The funding for deinstitutionalization and developing community services available in the 70s and early 80s.2.Community Psychology’s divergence from clinical psychology
    • 12. Reflection: Understanding CommunityPsychology’s inclusion of disabilitiesOverall inclusion of disabilities has decreased over thelast 10 years•The decrease in cognitive/developmental disabilitiesdoes not, by itself, explain the overall decline•The growth and decline of physical disabilities • ADA Battles? • Community Psychology membership • Disability Studies
    • 13. Moving Forward• This study does not address the inclusion of psycho- emotional disabilities and services• An inclusive definition of disabilities would include these populations, however they represent a number of conceptual challenges.• With this in mind, future studies hope to; ▫ Build an understanding of community psychology’s inclusion of psycho-emotional disabilities ▫ Illuminate the role of disability perspectives within community psychology’s inclusion of mental health populations and services
    • 14. ReferencesDowrick, P. W. and Keys, C. B (2001). Community psychology and disability studies. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 21(2), 1-14.Blanchett, W. J., Klingner, J. K. and Harry, D. (2009). The intersection of race, culture, language, and disability: Implications for urban education. Urban Education, 44, 389-409.Harper, D. (1991). Paradigms for investigating rehabilitation and adaptation to childhood disability and chronic illness. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 16, 533–542.Lawthom, R. and Goodley, D. (2005). Community psychology: Towards an empowering vision of disability. The Community Psychologist, 18(7), 423-425.McDonald, K. E., Keys, C.B., & Balcazar, F. E. (2007). Disability, race/ethnicity and gender: Themes of cultural oppression, acts of individual resistance. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(1-2), 145-161.Miles, M. B. and Huberman, M. (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.Olkin, R. and Pledger, C. (2003). Can disability studies and psychology join hands? The American Psychologist, 58 (4), 296.Ryan, G.W. and Bernard, H.R. (2003) Techniques to Identify Themes, Field Methods, 15(1): 85-109.