Self-esteem and women with disabilities

Margaret A. Nosek, Rosemary B. Hughes, Nancy Swedlund, Heather B. Taylor, Paul Swank

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123 Scopus citations


This study examines the sense of self of women with physical disabilities in terms of self-esteem, self-cognition (perceptions of how others see them), and social isolation. It was hypothesized that these variables mediate the relation of precursor variables (age, education, severity of disability, and childhood experiences, including overprotection, familial affection, and school environment) and outcomes (intimacy, employment, and health promoting behaviors). Data were gathered from a sample of 881 community-dwelling women in the USA, 475 with a variety of mild to severe physical disabilities, and 406 without disabilities. Correlation analyses indicated that the women with disabilities had significantly lower self-cognition and self-esteem, and greater social isolation than the women without disabilities, as well as significantly less education, more overprotection during childhood, poorer quality of intimate relationships, and lower rates of salaried employment. Path analysis indicated that each of the sense of self mediators was significantly related to the outcome of intimacy, that both social isolation and self-esteem were significantly related to health promoting behaviors, and that only self-esteem was significantly related to employment. Respondents who were older, less disabled, less educated, less over-protected, and had more affection shown in the home tended to feel that others saw them more positively. Women with positive school environments, less over-protection, and more affection in the home experienced less social isolation; age, education, and disability severity were not significantly related to social isolation. Older respondents with less disability, a more positive school environment, less over-protection, and more affection in the home tended to have greater self-esteem; education was not significantly related to self-esteem. Older respondents tended to report less intimacy. Younger, more educated, and less disabled respondents were significantly more likely to be employed. More highly educated respondents reported engaging in more health promoting behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1737-1747
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Physical disability
  • Self-esteem
  • USA
  • Women


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