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Using identity interruption theory to explain increased levels of psychological distress in deaf people with hearing identities

By Emma Marriott


The literature review looks at how hearing parents adapt to a deaf child in the family, and considers how this literature supports a disability-stress model of maternal adaptation. Partial support is found for the model, and a revised version is suggested.\ud \ud The aim of the empirical papers is to examine the relationships between psychological distress, social identity, and identity interruption in culturally and non-culturally deaf adults. Research suggests that interruption to social identity leads to increased psychological distress, and that deaf people who adopt a hearing identity have increased levels of psychological distress. This research aims to consider identity interruption as an explanation for higher levels of psychological distress in deaf people with a hearing identity. The first paper describes the development of an Identity Interruption Scale for Deaf people. Four types of identity interruption are identified, and five questions developed for each of the four types. The 20-item scale was piloted with 44 deaf adults in the Midlands. Cronbach’s alpha was conducted, and principal components analysis yielded five factors based on the four identity interruption types - broken loop, over-controlled identity, episodic identity, interference from other identities (work), and interference from other identities (family). On the basis of this analysis, a 16-item scale was finalised.\ud \ud In the second study, 130 deaf and hard-of-hearing adults completed the Identity Interruption Scale for Deaf People, alongside measures of Deaf identity (Deaf Attitude and Identity Questionnaire) and of psychological distress (General Health Questionnaire-28). It was found that a stronger Deaf identity correlated positively with lower levels of psychological distress and decreased identity interruption. Higher identity interruption correlated positively with increased psychological distress. These findings are discussed, and clinical implications put forward

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  1. (2000). Deaf people with mental health needs in the criminal justice system: a review of the UK literature. doi

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