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Friendships in the lives of eight adults with learning disabilities

Gillian Allan

It is proposed to present the findings of a PhD study with the title ‘An exploration of the meaning of friendship and barriers to friendship formation for adults with learning disabilities’.

The PhD is due to be completed this year. The fieldwork took place between February and December 2010 in a major Scottish city. It is made up of a series of interviews with eight participants. All participants had a label of 'learning disability'. Participants were different from each other in a number of ways. Five were female and three were male, the youngest was in her early twenties and the oldest in her late fifties, they were from a mixture of working class and middle class backgrounds and had a range of support needs.

Each participant took part in 6-10 interviews. It was the intention of the researcher to use a participatory methodology, this meant giving as much control as possible to participants over the interview process. Participants decided on interview locations, length, when to have breaks and what they felt comfortable talking about.

A life-story/semi-structured interview hybrid was used to collect data. This meant that participants were asked to talk freely about friendships at different stages in their lives but were also asked more focused questions about friendship in general. This allowed the researcher to collect information about:

  • particular friendships and their importance at different stages in people’s lives
  • how friendships were made, developed, kept or lost over time
  • the meaning of friendship to participants
  • difficulties that people described in making friends or keeping friendships going.

The proposed presentation will describe these findings and present some of the participant’s own words to paint a richer picture of the issues discussed.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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