Elizabeth Scriven, Psy.D, is a 2019 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Seattle.

Dissertation Committee

Dana Waters, Psy.D., APBB, Committee Chair

Elizabeth Boland, Ph.D., Committee Member

Brett Kuwada, Psy.D., Committee Member


qualitative; spina bifida; identity development; disability; psychosocial; ableism; mental health; physical health; psychological; health; medical providers; processionals; care givers

Document Type


Publication Date



To date, disability identity development is a highly understudied construct. There are many models of disability, each interpret disability through a specific lens, but do not address the influence of disability on identity development. The few theories of disability identity that do exist have not been widely adopted. In addition, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support them. Another difficulty is that these theories do not separate different disability groups. Rather, the theories are applied to a broad heterogenous group of disability types. This is a problem because each disability type is quite distinct from the others and therefore each disability requires its own developmental model. On the surface, alternate models of identity development, such as racial identity development, seem similar to what might be expected in the process of disability development, however, as of 2019, no such studies have been conducted or published. It is the purpose of this project to uncover themes of disability identity development as they pertain to people with spina bifida in order to build a framework for understanding the process of identity development in this population. A descriptive phenomenological methodology was used to conduct a thematic analysis of existing literature. A total of 79 articles were reviewed in detail, and common themes and connections were noted. Nine themes of identity development for people with spina bifida emerged. The themes include: (a) employment, (b) family, (c) physical health, (d) psychological and mental health (e) view of disability, (f) sexuality, (g) impact of others, (h) psychosocial, and (i) transition. Each theme was deemed an essential element in understanding the process of identity development for those with spina bifida. This study was limited by the scope of literature reviewed as well as a lack of first-hand accounts of the identity process. This work is intended to be preliminary and to provide direction for further research. This dissertation is available on open access at AURA, and OhioLINK ETD Center,


Elizabeth Scriven, Psy.D., 2019