Research has shown that people often do not claim labels associated with mental retardation or learning difficulties. We discussed the interpretation that this rejection is an example of a denial process, the purpose of which is to protect self-esteem. Alternative explanations for this lack of identification were offered, based on an understanding of the socially constructed nature of diagnostic labels and on the distinction between diagnostic labels and social categories. Some of the problems in using the label as a descriptive or explanatory resource are illustrated using quotes from a study in which people who have been labeled discussed the label.

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