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Title: Parents without children : an exploratory study to investigate parents with learning disabilities experience of losing their child by adoption or to other care arrangements
Author: Wood, Rachael L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 0780
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2002
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Although the number of parents with learning disabilities is difficult to accurately assess, some researchers believe that the numbers of people becoming parents has increased in recent years, in part due to the effects of de-institutionalisation. However, the research literature in this area shows that the some parents with learning disabilities have been judged as having deficits in their parenting skills and that some parents are treated more harshly than non learning disabled parents by the child protection system and are more likely to have their children removed. Very little has been written about this experience from the perspective of the parents themselves. Although it is known that both consenting and non-consenting adoption has long lasting psychological effects, including feelings of loss and stigma on non-learning disabled birth parents. In particular parents who do not consent to the adoption of their children are thought to be a highly underepresented and disenfranchised group. This piece of research used an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore the experiences of parents with learning disabilities who have lost their children to fostering, adoption or other care arrangements. Six parents with learning disabilities were interviewed; this included five mothers and one father. From the (IPA) analysis of the interview data three super ordinate themes emerged. The first, 'issues related to identity and power' included the interview participants accounts of their how their learning disabled identity effected their access to power and knowledge and their relationship with others. The second 'being a parent' documented the participants' experience of parenthood, including parental self-concept and attacks on parenthood. The third theme 'losing the child' explored the participants' emotional reactions to their loss, their understanding of this event and how they accommodated to their changed circumstances. The parents generally did not appear to describe themselves as learning disabled, but their daily lives and experience of parenting were greatly affected by the power and control they felt others exerted over them. Parenthood gave them a valued identity outside of being learning disabled but this identity was subject to constant attack. This led to long term negative psychological consequences including feelings of loss, anger, guilt, self-blame and depression. It is hoped that this study will help services and professionals that assess and support parents with learning disabilities to understand the issues from the parents' perspective and provide them with support if their children are removed from their care.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available