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Title: Experience of partner selection and relationships for people with learning disabilities
Author: Bates, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 6595
Awarding Body: London South Bank University
Current Institution: London South Bank University
Date of Award: 2015
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This original research presents first-hand accounts of intimate aspects of relationships for people with learning disabilities. Until relatively recently, people with learning disabilities have been prevented or strongly discouraged from engaging in relationships. The aim of the research was to understand what adults with learning disabilities look for in a partner and how these choices influence the relationships they experience. There has been minimal research which has explored the experiences of people with learning disabilities in relationships and no studies to date which have focused on partner section for this group. A hermeneutic phenomenological study, guided by the theory of Van Manen (1990), was conducted to directly explore participants’ understandings of relationships. In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven participants and their interviews were transcribed to produce written narratives. Their narrative accounts and other information were utilised to develop participants’ stories in order to enable readers to understand the experience of being a person with a learning disability in a relationship. The stories were analysed using an initial exploratory thematic analysis. A second hermeneutic phenomenological analysis was conducted on the interview transcripts to identify themes. The findings were examined in relation to attachment theory and Maslow’s theory of motivation which attribute different levels of significance to love and relationships. The analysis revealed that, for people with learning disabilities, love was a ‘basic need’. Participants wanted a partner to love and to be loved by, someone who treated them kindly, who was affectionate and who provided companionship. Participants had to overcome significant barriers such as experiences of abuse and abandonment to develop relationships. Participants continued to experience other barriers such as a lack of autonomy due to the influence of staff, family or living environment, as well as limited social circles and a lack of life opportunities. The research identified that all participants had been able to overcome the barriers to the development of relationships. The facilitators to relationships included support from staff, positive role models within the family, physical affection and companionship. Maslow’s hierarchy was revised to reflect the value of having a loving relationship with a committed partner to people with learning disabilities and to identify the support they required to facilitate and maintain this.
Supervisor: Popple, Keith ; Terry, Louise ; Francis-Wright, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral