Parental Support towards Children and Youngsters with an Intellectual Disability
Uijl, M. den
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INTRODUCTION: Children with intellectual disabilities who live in poverty are among the most vulnerable people on the planet. Organizations, like the Liliane Foundation, try to improve their development and wellbeing by addressing the child’s (immediate) social environment. BACKGROUND: Parent-child relationships are known to be particularly important in the development of children, especially for those with an intellectual disability. One of the mechanisms which make up the parent-child interaction is social support. Research has showed that receiving social support is beneficial for a person’s wellbeing and health, in particular for individuals who are facing a high number of stressors, like people with a disability. To be able to optimize the service provision of organizations like the Liliane Foundation, it might be valuable to get an insight into the practices of parental support and the motivations behind it. This study aims at explaining what kind of support parents in northern Tanzania provide towards children with an intellectual disability and what motivates or limits them in doing so. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 intellectually impaired children, their parents and professionals in three places in northern Tanzania. 12 families of children with a physical impairment were included as a control group. RESULTS: The parents were mainly concerned with assisting the child to overcome his/her problem, by encouraging and advising him/her about how to become a self-sustaining grown-up. They were less involved with enhancing the child’s self-esteem or making him/her feel valued. Cultural traditions, beliefs and expectations about the child’s future are most mentioned as important indicators for (a lack of) parental support. African parents expect their child to reciprocate the investment they put into the its development. When they don not render the child capable of doing so, they are less willing to spend time and resources in the child’s development. CONCLUSION: To improve the parental support provision towards children with an intellectual sidability, it is recommended to improve the parents’ beliefs about the child’s capabilities and future perspectives.