Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 5 (September/October 1999), Pages 321-394

Enabled or disabled? Working parents of disabled children and the provision of child‐care (pages 369-381)


This research explores the reported experiences of working parents of disabled children with respect to formal and informal sources of child‐care, the need for which extends beyond the childhood years. Forty families with at least one disabled child, representing a variety of family structures and work situations, participated in semi‐structured interviews. The resultant data revealed an analytical axis of disabling and enabling features of child‐care. These are illustrated here with reference to the parents' accounts. Disabling barriers were physical, attitudinal or material. However, some features of either formal or informal care served to dismantle these barriers. Where formal child‐care was available, appropriate, flexible and accommodating to the needs of both the parents and the disabled child, the parents reported being able to combine working and caring roles successfully. However, where formal supports were inadequate or non‐existent, parents who could rely on the support of family and friends to supply emotional and instrumental assistance reported balance between work and caring roles. Whilst all parents need satisfactory child‐care in the early years, these parents' needs extend beyond the childhood years: the parents' accounts highlighted their complex and long‐term child‐care needs. Options for further research were proposed which would emphasize negotiation within families over time, or would focus on intersections of other parts of the work‐family‐community system. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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