Adolescence is a time of rapid development physically, psychologically, and emotionally (Erikson 1968; Harter 1990). Along with the maturational changes during this developmental period comes a heightened awareness of self that often focuses on individuality, personal identity, and fitting into the social mainstream (Damon and Hart 1988; Draper and Belsky 1990; Levine and Wagner 2005; Peetsma et al. 2005). Adolescents' views of themselves and their lives "serve to shape goals . . . and to provide self-guides that aid in appropriate social behavior and self-regulation" (Harter 1999, p. 2).
This chapter addresses the "self-descriptions" (Harter 1999, p. 3) of youth with disabilities—how they represent to others via interview or survey both "who I am" and "how I feel" about various aspects of self and life. To ascertain their self-descriptions, youth with disabilities were asked their views about their personal attributes and their feelings about positive and negative aspects of themselves and their lives. This chapter presents findings regarding these kinds of self-descriptions for youth with disabilities21 as a whole and for those who differ in disability category and, when statistically significant, age, gender, household income, and race/ethnicity.
21 Readers are reminded that findings are national estimates for the subsample of youth with disabilities who could report their own perceptions and expectations, not a sample of all youth with disabilities in the NLTS2 age range. See chapter 1 for further details on the group that is the focus of this report.