GERNSBACHER, M. A. (2017). The use of person-first language in scholarly writing may accentuate stigma. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58, 859-861.
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Numerous style guides, including those issued by the American Psychological and the American Psychiatric Associations, prescribe that writers use only person-first language so that nouns referring to persons (e.g. children) always precede phrases referring to characteristics (e.g. children with typical development). Person-first language is based on the premise that everyone, regardless of whether they have a disability, is a person-first, and therefore everyone should be referred to with person-first language. However, my analysis of scholarly writing suggests that person-first language is used more frequently to refer to children with disabilities than to refer to children without disabilities; person-first language is more frequently used to refer to children with disabilities than adults with disabilities; and person-first language is most frequently used to refer to children with the most stigmatized disabilities. Therefore, the use of person-first language in scholarly writing may actually accentuate stigma rather than attenuate it. Recommendations are forwarded for language use that may reduce stigma.