Historical trends and the treatment of parents with intellectual disability

Author: Holburn, C.S.
Year: 2000
Reference Type: Journal Article
Journal/Book Title: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research
Volume: 44
Pages: 321-321
Abstract: Perceptions of parents with intellectual disability have waxed and waned throughout history, ranging from egregious cultural threat to citizens entitled to the same rights as everyone else. In the early 1900s, young women with mental retardation of child-bearing age were thought to be promiscuous menaces capable of propagating overwhelming numbers of degenerates and criminals. Accordingly, marriage was prohibited, and common treatments were institutionalization and sterilization. By the mid-1900s, genetic advances and a burgeoning interest in environmental influences turned the attention from the parent as social menace to the inadequate parent. Public sentiment softened further with the banning of sterilization, the deinstitutionalization movement, favourable court decisions and public education. Additionally, longitudinal studies by Skeels, Heber and Ramey showed that children at risk benefit from early intervention.Today, many parents with intellectual disability enjoy the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, child rearing and community membership. However, recent applied and participant observation research focusing on parental competence, and the social and emotional needs of the family reveals significant gaps in services and supports.

The Parenting Research Centre acknowledges and respects the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of this country and the Elders of the past, present and future.