The Deaf Identity
Ones sense of self, or perception of one’s self, is put together throughout the childhood years; relating to any number of characteristics. These could be gender identity, racial identity, involvement in academics, involvement in sports, and many others. These are some of the key parts to building one’s identity, or the understanding of one’s unique characteristics and how they have been, are, and will be manifested across ages, situations, and social roles. But what happens when a part of your identity is associated with your ability to hear or not. How does one establish a healthy identity of themselves when most the views of hard-of-hearing or deafness is negative? One study conducted in South Africa concluded that the deaf identity is not a static concept; but that it is a complex ongoing quest for belonging, bound up with the acceptance of being deaf and “finding one’s voice” in a hearing dominate society (McIlroy & Storbeck, 2011). This concept correlates more with James Marcia’s Theory of Identity Achievement over Erik Erikson’s fifth stage of psychosocial development based on the fact that sometimes the Deaf identity does not develop until post-adolescence, even in children who were born deaf. Marcia’s theory acknowledges that sometimes the quest for one’s identity can span one’s lifetime, therefore also breaking Erikson’s rigid rules of the identity developing in adolescence. When the Deaf identity has been developed it too has a range of meaning for those involved in the process. In the South Africa study, it was founded that there are four static identities; deaf, Deaf, negative/ambiguous, and bicultural Deaf. These identities are formed through a myriad of experiences. Whether the child was born to a hearing family, born to a Deaf family, went to school in a mainstream hearing school, or attended a Deaf school, and the person’s personal preferred method of communication. Many Deaf children of Deaf families are born into a household...
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