Influences on the Decision to Place a Son or Daughter with Learning Disabilities and Challenging Behaviour in to Alternative Care

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


The transition from home to alternative care has been seen as an important and potentially stressful event in the Family Life Cycle for those who have a son or daughter with learning disability. Where the person also has challenging behaviour, the circumstances of a move may be all the more traumatic. This thesis was concerned with identifying the factors that appear to be influential in the decision to seek an alternative residential placement for a son or daughter with learning disability and challenging behaviour. This involved secondary analysis of data for adults aged 20 to 45 years and children aged 11 to 19 years, derived from a series of studies around people with learning disability identified as having challenging behaviour. Study One analysed two data sets (1988 and 1995) comprising information provided by service staff on the characteristics of people for whom they provided a service (N=439 and N=139). Study Two analysed information from service settings (N=36) and parents (N=20) for a group of people who were known to have left home between 1988 and 1995 and their counterparts matched on age and gender who remained at home. Study Three involved qualitative analysis of interviews with parents whose sons and daughters were identified in 1988 and were known to have left home by 1995 (N=18).The results of Study One highlighted the need to take level of intellectual ability into account when looking at factors which may affect placement decisions. Analysis suggested that those people living away from home who had poor/low levels of intellectual ability were older and had fewer physical limitations (i.e. mobility, continence and eating independently). Those who had a good level of intellectual ability tended to live in residential care if they were older and male. However, for those whose level of intellectual ability was ‘fair’ only higher frequency of episodes of challenging behaviour differentiated those at home. Children in residential care tended to be male. Analysis of the database from 1995 confirmed that different factors distinguished residential groups dependant on level of ability but highlighted different factors, apart from age for those with lower intellectual ability. It was concluded, that the differences may have been due to the different service climate in which the data was gathered. Study Two reflected the findings in Study One and an earlier study (Kiernan & Alborz, 1995) using some of the same data. The study groups differed in terms of physical limitation and behaviour. Parents of the movers found supervision problematic and were more likely to have been injured by their son or daughter. The groups did not reflect other findings in the literature. However, it was considered that this was due to the small numbers involved in this part of the study which did not allow sensitive analysis of the variables in question. It was proposed that the apparent delaying effect of physical limitation may have been due to more able people leaving home at an earlier age than their counterparts in the general population of people with learning disability.Parent interviews revealed that those with better levels of intellectual ability appeared more likely to have been placed because parents wanted them to have greater independence. They were also likely to have been placed following episodes of behaviour which brought them into contact with the law or was likely to do so. Those with poorer levels of intellectual ability, however, appeared to be placed because of other difficulties within the family, particularly parental health or exhaustion. Most moves were achieved very quickly. However, long term outcomes were felt to be good by almost all parents.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Manchester
Publication statusPublished - May 2001


  • learning disabilities
  • challenging behaviour
  • alternative residential care
  • parental decision making


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