The link among self-esteem, differentiation, and spousal intimacy in deaf and hearing adults

Miriam Levinger*, Tammie Ronen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Family, as the most important human support system, is the major component that clinicians can use to help people in their struggle to cope, adjust, and adapt to society. The ability to form a family and intimate relations with a spouse comprises a central measure of normative adult functioning and a critical stage of adult development. This study examined a personal component (self-esteem), an original family component (differentiation), and the capacity for spousal intimacy among 101 deaf adults (comprising about one fourth of the Israeli deaf population) and 57 normally hearing adults matched to the deaf sample according to age, gender, place of birth, and marital status. As expected, correlations emerged between higher levels of self-esteem, greater emotional differentiation from parents, and higher spousal intimacy within each group. Also, intergroup differences emerged, with deaf participants lower than their hearing peers both in self-esteem and ability for spousal intimacy. Contrary to expectations, differentiation from original family was similar in both groups. Results emphasized the significant contribution of self-esteem to adult functioning. Outcomes pinpoint the need for social workers and other clinicians to increase these clients' self-esteem to improve functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-52
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Social Work in Disability and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Adult differentiation
  • Deaf adults
  • Family of origin
  • Hearing impaired
  • Self-esteem
  • Spousal intimacy


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