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The Fuzzy Buzz Word: Conceptualizations of Disability in Disability Research Classics
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2007 (English)In: Sociology of Health and Illnes, ISSN 0141-9889, E-ISSN 1467-9566, Vol. 29, no 5, 750-766 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article analyses five classical texts from the field of disability research/studies. The focus of the analysis is on how disability is defined both on a theoretical level and on an empirical or applied level. The findings suggest that definitional clarity can be questioned. First, a 'traditional' problem of validity occurs in some of the texts. Secondly, lack of clearly expressed and explicit definitions makes it difficult for the reader to understand what the author means with the term disability. Thirdly, some authors alter the definition of disability through their texts, without any explanations, making it arduous for the reader to follow the use and meaning of the term. It is suggested that these problems stem from the lack of proper theorising within the field of disability research. Disability researchers have been focusing on defining separate concepts, without any ambitions to relate them to each other in a theoretical frame. This means that the field of disability research consists of free-floating concepts, poorly related to each other.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 29, no 5, 750-766 p.
Keyword [en]
Conceptualisation, Definition, Disability, Methodology
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Sociology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-95725DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.01014.xISI: 000249016200007PubMedID: 17714341OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-95725DiVA: diva2:170045
Available from: 2007-04-12 Created: 2007-04-12 Last updated: 2011-01-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Definitions of Disability in Social Sciences: Methodological Perspectives
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Definitions of Disability in Social Sciences: Methodological Perspectives
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation examines how disability researchers define disability. It is based on four studies. The first describes different definitions of disability in disability research. The second study is a conceptual analysis of the use of disability in a sample of disability research classics. In this study, it is evident that use of the concept is all but clear. It is concluded that especially environmentally based disability definitions would benefit from further empirical investigations. The notion that environmental factors (such as barriers) are a causal aspect of disability is rather widely accepted among disability researchers. However, it has not been empirically studied to such an extent that it is possible to construct workable theories of this relationship.

The third study focuses on administrative definitions of disability and investigates the possibility of using data on disabled people that have been gathered by Swedish welfare authorities. It is concluded that rich data are available, but also that researchers must scrutinize how disability has been defined in these contexts. These authorities often start from medical understandings of disability, which may clash with contemporary understandings of disability as being environmentally based.

The fourth study is a statistical analysis of the effects of different disability definitions on dependent variables. The analyses emphasize variables often included in studies of living conditions. There are major effects of choice of disability definition on the outcome in relation to such variables.

The dissertation strongly rejects efforts to standardize disability definitions; different analytical purposes require different kinds of conceptualizations. Instead, the dissertation suggests that case-constructing reflexivity be conducted. Case-constructing reflexivity means that the researcher starts with a careful analysis of how disability is best defined in relation to the aims of the study, and continues by being constantly aware of how the choice of definition may affect sampling, analyses and results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2007. 52 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Social Sciences, ISSN 1652-9030 ; 29
Sociology, disability, concept analysis, methodology, definitions, disability research, Sociologi
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-7803 (URN)978-91-554-6857-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-05-04, Geijer-salen, Hus 6 (Geijer-salen), Thunbergsvägen 3p, Uppsala, 13:15
Available from: 2007-04-12 Created: 2007-04-12Bibliographically approved

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