The double-edged sword of vulnerability: explaining the persistent challenges for practitioners in supporting parents with intellectual disabilities

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Background: Evidence suggests that parents with intellectual disabilities can be “good enough” parents with appropriate support that focuses on the whole family. This paper brings together theories of vulnerability with an ethics of care approach to reflect on challenges for practitioners in supporting parents, drawing upon data from a study carried out in Scotland. Method: An online survey was administered to practitioners in three settings, and follow‐up interviews were carried out with key informants. Results: Pockets of good practice existed but a number of barriers to supporting families remained. These related to a lack of accessible information, difficulties in identifying and engaging with families at an early stage and poor joint working across agencies. Conclusion: The study concludes by arguing that practitioners' constructions of families as “vulnerable” reflects negatively on their perceived capacity to parent, creating further barriers in accessing appropriate support and reducing expectations of success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1523-1534
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number6
Early online date18 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019


  • intellectual disabilities
  • support
  • practicioners
  • parents with learning disabilities
  • theories of vulnerability
  • care ethics

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