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Angharad Butler-Rees (University of Warwick, Department of Sociology)
Stella Chatzitheochari (University of Warwick, Department of Sociology)
Stigma and the Identity Narratives of Disabled Young People: Initial insights from the Educational Pathways and Work Outcomes Qualitative Longitudinal Study
The ‘Educational Pathways and Work Outcomes of Disabled Young People in England’ is a three-year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which seeks to understand the association of adolescent disability with educational and occupational disadvantage. While there is evidence that disabled young people lag behind their non-disabled peers in educational and occupational outcomes in adulthood, little is known about the social processes behind these inequalities. This project seeks to rectify this omission by utilising nationally representative longitudinal datasets alongside a longitudinal qualitative study of disabled young people. Our aim is to give voice to disabled young people’s unique experiences and produce a novel conceptual framework for understanding disability inequalities, challenging perspectives that consider disadvantage as a natural consequence of disability.
In this paper, we will draw upon some initial themes emerging from the first wave of our qualitative longitudinal study, which consists of semi-structured interviews with 35 autistic, dyslexic and/or physically disabled Year 11 students from mainstream schools in England. We will explore participants’ experiences of prejudice, stigma, and discrimination within the school context, along with whether they perceive their disability and any associated stigma to have a potential impact on their educational progress, future career path, and aspirations. In turn, we will also consider how young people and their parents may actively seek to resist stigma through their identity narratives and personal outlook. In doing so, we shed light to the important role that parenting can have on both young people’s framing of disability and their capacity to challenge discrimination and disadvantage. Particular attention will be paid to differences in experience between parental social class and disability group. Social capital is recognised as being key here in providing young people with the knowledge, support and resources necessary to become resilient, positively reframe their disability and challenge disadvantage.