Impression Formation Following Self-disclosure of an Invisible (Non-apparent) Disability to a Romantic Partner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study aimed to delve into the intricate dynamics of disclosing invisible disabilities within romantic relationships through the lens of Impression Management Theory. Specifically, we examined how disclosing an invisible disability influences the impression formed by the partner, as indicated by the willingness to continue the relationship. A total of 732 college students without disabilities were randomly assigned to read a scenario in which the main character was told of the current partner’s invisible disability (asthma, epilepsy, or schizophrenia), at different times of disclosure (second date/ three months into a relationship/six months into a relationship). Participants then completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) to measure their affective responses following the disclosure. Finally, they rated the main character’s degree of willingness to continue the relationship. Results indicate that negative affect mediated the association between disability type and relationship continuity willingness. Gender-based emotional responses varied, with disclosure timing moderating these effects. For women, revealing schizophrenia later in the relationship correlated with stronger negative emotions and a greater willingness of the partners to continue the relationship. These findings contribute to our comprehension of how disclosing invisible disabilities influences partner impressions, highlighting role of gender dynamics. By applying Impression Management Theory, we have shed light on the multifaceted nature of self-presentation and societal attitudes that shapes the dynamics of romantic relationships. Our findings hold practical implications for individuals navigating the disclosure of disabilities in intimate relationships, while also offering theoretical insights into the complex interplay between societal perceptions and individual experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-293
Number of pages17
JournalSexuality and Disability
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Impression management theory
  • Invisible disabilities
  • Israel
  • Romantic relationship
  • Self-disclosure
  • Societal attitudes
  • Stigma


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