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Defining Disability: Effects on Disability Concepts on Research Outcomes
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2009 (English)In: International Journal of Social Research Methodology, ISSN 1364-5579, E-ISSN 1464-5300, Vol. 12, no 1, 1-18 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents analyses of how different definitions of disability affect the outcomes of studies of disabled people’s living conditions. Three different definitions of disability are compared using six rather common variables: gender, age, living arrangements, education, labour market participation and income. Selected definitions of disability are administrative definitions, a subjective definition and a functional definition. Analyses were conducted using compilations of several databases in Sweden. Recurrent differences between administrative definitions, on the one hand, and functional and subjective definitions, on the other, are found in relation to educational and labour force variables. People defined by an administrative definition are more likely to be younger and single than the people defined by the other two definitions. More research on the impact of disability definitions is needed. However, a first step in resolving this question would be to improve the methodological awareness of disability researchers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 12, no 1, 1-18 p.
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-95727DOI: 10.1080/13645570701621977OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-95727DiVA: diva2:170047
Available from: 2007-04-12 Created: 2007-04-12 Last updated: 2013-09-25Bibliographically 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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