Labeling, Impact of

Relative to psychology and education, the term labeling refers to the process of categorizing an individual based on abilities and/or disabilities. Labels are often used to denote a special education disability classification, a particular referral concern, or a mental health diagnosis. Though labels are often thought to be used for the purpose of classification alone, they have the potential to be stigmatizing, especially if misapplied. At the same time, labeling may be necessary in order to access critically needed services designed to address particular academic, behavioral, and/or social needs. This entry first discusses labeling theory, then looks at how labels are used in special education and mental health and the potential benefits and harm of labeling.

Howard Becker, a sociologist who worked in the areas of ...

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