University of Leicester
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Entering the adult world : the experiences of young adults with learning disabilities of social support during the transition into adult services

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posted on 2014-05-06, 10:35 authored by Adrian Ierna
The transition into adulthood has been identified as a key life event for people with learning disabilities, entailing the departure of services which are well known and entry into unfamiliar systems. Social support has been conceived as having a stress buffering role. It has also been contended that social support is itself important to the mental health of people. It was hypothesised that the role of social support in the transition period would be important, particularly as the transition process itself may change the structure of the support network around the individual. Traditional concepts of social support have been criticised as lacking conceptual clarity and of being of limited ecological value. They do not take into account the context of relationships which are entailed and the ambiguous nature of support. Moreover, no studies have examined the views of people with learning disabilities about their experiences of social support. This study aimed to use in-depth interviews to explore the views of people with learning disabilities about their experiences of social support. Six young adults with mild to moderate learning disabilities were interviewed about their experiences of leaving school and the support that they received at that time. A grounded theory methodology was used to code the transcripts. The analysis identified various challenges that occur during the transition years. It also delineated the interplay between self-reliant coping responses and social support coping strategies which participants used to respond to these challenges, with particular attention being drawn to the different pathways to attaining social support and the distinction between unsought social support and initiating support interactions. The intervening conditions of relationships and locations were related through this process. The properties of relationships were discussed, as were the important contextual factors of control and identity. Strategies used to manage social relationships were related both in terms of maintaining positive examples but also in terms of managing conflict within those relationships. The theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.


Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Psychology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • DClinPsy



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