Structural and functional characteristics of the social networks of people with mild intellectual disabilities
Number of pages
SourceResearch in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 4, (2013), pp. 1280-1288
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OW PWO [owi]
Research in Developmental Disabilities
SubjectLearning and Plasticity
In the research on people with intellectual disabilities and their social networks, the functional characteristics of their networks have been examined less often than the structural characteristics. Research on the structural characteristics of their networks is also usually restricted to the size and composition of the networks, moreover, with little attention to such characteristics as the variety, accessibility, length and origin of the relationships or the frequency and initiation of the contacts. A comprehensive examination of both the structural and functional characteristics of the social networks of 33 people with intellectual disabilities was therefore undertaken. The social networks of the individuals who all lived in the community varied from 4 to 28 members (mean 14.21); 42.65% of the network members were family members, 32.84% acquaintances and 24.51% professionals. Remarkable is the high frequency of contact with network members; the finding that the participants considered themselves to be the main initiator of contact more often than the other members of their networks as the main initiators; the high scores assigned to neighbours and professionals for functional characteristics; and the relatively low scores assigned to network members for the connection characteristic of the social networks. The important role of professionals in the social networks of people with mild intellectual disabilities and practical implications to facilitate their social inclusion are discussed.
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