Mothers with learning difficulties and their support networks

Author: Llewellyn, G.;McConnell, D.
Year: 2002
Reference Type: Journal Article
Journal/Book Title: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research
Volume: 46
Issue: 1
Pages: 17 - 34
Abstract: Mothers with learning difficulties are thought to be among the most socially isolated parents in the community. A great deal of attention has been directed to assessing their parenting abilities and teaching parenting skills, but less has been given to the support that mothers may (or may not) receive from family, friends, and the service system. The present paper investigates mothers' views about the types of support which they receive and from whom they receive it. Data were derived from 70 mothers who participated in interviews using a support interview guide designed to accommodate the mothers' cognitive difficulties. The primary purpose of the interview was to explore the quantity and composition of the mothers' support networks, the frequency of contact and geographical proximity of support people, and the type of support provided. Key findings include: the central place that family members have in these mothers' lives; the importance of service providers as sources of information and advice; and the relative absence of friends and neighbours. Briefly, mothers living alone have service-centred networks, mothers living with a partner have family-centred networks with relatively dispersed family ties, and mothers living in a parent/parent-figure household have local, family centred networks. The overall conclusion to be drawn from the present results is that these mothers do not live in a social vacuum, but many are socially isolated. The finding that so few mothers could identify supportive ties with friends and neighbours suggests that these mothers are isolated from their local communities and are potentially vulnerable if a breakdown occurs in the support provided by their families. The need for service providers to be more actively involved in linking mothers to their communities is discussed.

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