“Who I Am and What I Want”: Adolescents' Self-Definition and Struggles

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Exceptional Children


This article examined self-definition in a sample of adolescents with and without disabilities to understand how they develop a sense of themselves and influential contextual factors. Central findings focus attention on students' self-definition, the degree to which they struggle in their lives, and the social support they are able to access and use. Students varied on level of self-definition, struggle, and type of support. Variation was dependent upon the clarity of the students' sense of themselves, their vision for the future, and their access to and use of supports to cope with decisions and difficulties faced as they prepared to graduate from high school. Students with disabilities were most likely to have low self-definition and experience high struggle.