Coping with criticism and praise: the emotional well-being of people with intellectual disabilities.
D Clin Psy thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Background: Through their experiences of stigma and discrimination, people with intellectual disabilities may develop negative beliefs about themselves and compare themselves negatively to others. This may make them more sensitive to criticism from others. In addition, receiving praise may be discrepant with the self-views of people with intellectual disabilities and they may be less likely to benefit from praise. Being distressed by criticism has been associated with vulnerability to mental health difficulties in the general adult population. It is not known how people with intellectual disabilities perceive and experience criticism and praise.
Method: Two study groups were recruited; one with intellectual disabilities, one without. The praise and criticism task (PACT) was developed for the study. Participants were presented with ten scenes in which they were asked to imagine someone saying something positive (praise) or negative (criticism). Following the presentation of each scene, participants were asked about their emotions, beliefs, thoughts and actions.
Results: People with intellectual disabilities were more likely to believe and be distressed by criticism. Contrary to predictions, this group were also more likely to believe and experience positive affect in response to praise. No differences were found in the frequency of self-supporting thoughts or actions reported in response to criticism.
Conclusions: The results may represent a difference in the way people with intellectual disabilities develop their sense of self and may suggest that the self-perceptions of this group are more dynamic and reliant on the views of others. In theory, such sensitivity could make people more vulnerable to mental health difficulties. On the other hand, the possibilities for positive influence have implications for psychological and social interventions.
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