Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study explored women with facial differences and the various adaptive pathways and positive coping mechanisms that have developed in order to handle social challenges. Currently, there is a lack of awareness and understanding about this underrepresented population, making it necessary to examine women's personal reflections and perspectives as well as their strengths. Fourteen women between the ages of 18-50 with congenital or acquired facial differences (13 congenital; 1 acquired) participated in this exploratory study. Participants were recruited based on availability and snowball sampling, along with help from the director of a non-profit facial differences organization. Participants also had to be either currently or sometime in the past been working or in school. All women were interviewed over direct telephone contact with a structured interview guide that explored five main topics: friendships/social experiences, school, employment, positive learning and methods of coping, and intimacy (optional). The findings were generally positive and optimistic in nature, indicating a high level of adaptation and frequent utilization of positive coping skills. Adequate social support from family and close friends along with self-acceptance and faith were helpful ways to cope with daily stressors, while community activism and support organizations or social skills groups were all considered beneficial. Finally, reconstructive surgery was unexpectedly mentioned quite often and considered advantageous by many participants. Limitations include small sample size and the uneven number of participants with congenital versus acquired facial differences. Future research may consider broadening studies to incorporate factors such as gender, race/ethnicity, surgery, and intimacy.


iii, 79 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2007. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 69-72).