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Perceptions of the causes of childhood disability among Pakistani families living in the UK

Publication year
2008
Author(s)
Croot, E. J.; Grant, G.; Cooper, C. L.; Mathers, N.

It has been well documented that South Asian families caring for a child with a disability experience discrimination and disadvantage in accessing health and social care services. This gives increasing cause for concern as the number of South Asian people with severe learning impairments in the UK continues to rise. Mainstream services are ill-equipped to provide individual services to parents who choose to define and address disability differently, and whose concerns and solutions may differ from the majority population, despite the fact that these parents possess many strengths and may present alternative ways of addressing their needs. This study aimed to provide a detailed account of the ways that Pakistani parents living in a northern city in the UK and caring for a child with a disability, account for and understand their child’s disability. Sixteen in-depth interviews were carried out between October 2002 and July 2003, with Pakistani parents and one grandparent of children with a disability. All final transcripts were in English, and a thematic analysis was undertaken. Results include a detailed account of parents’ understanding of the causes of their child’s disability. All parents made reference to theological explanations as to why they had a child with a disability; however, most parents also gave biomedical or other explanations. The relationship between theological and biomedical explanations was explored along with the consequences of the different beliefs for individuals and families. Parents also spoke vividly about the impact of negative and stigmatizing beliefs about causes of disability which they felt were prevalent in the Pakistani community, and they used a biomedical discourse to refute these ideas. The authors suggest that knowledge of individual and family beliefs, and awareness of the impact of these beliefs, can provide a valuable conceptual lens for health and social care practitioners to use when working in family-centred, culturally congruent ways with parents.

Research abstracts