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Understandings of Down's syndrome: a Q methodological investigation

Bryant, L.D., Green, J.M. and Hewison, J. (2006) Understandings of Down's syndrome: a Q methodological investigation. Social Science & Medicine, 63 (5). pp. 1188-1200. ISSN 0277-9536

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Down's syndrome has been, and continues to be, a central focus of prenatal testing technology. However, there has been surprisingly little examination of how parental understandings of the condition relate to prenatal testing choices. This study, carried out at the University of Leeds, uses Q methodology to identify ‘competing equivalent stories’ of Down's syndrome and to highlight the shared and distinct themes within these stories. Seventy-six people were selected as being likely to represent a diverse range of views about Down's syndrome, approximately half of whom had some known experience or expertise related either to the condition or to prenatal testing. The participants were asked to Q sort 50 propositions about Down's syndrome that were selected to reflect different views about the condition in terms of its impact on the affected person, on families with an affected child, and on society. Using Principal Components Analysis, five statistically independent factors were extracted that reflected a range of views towards, and experiences of, people with Down's syndrome. Despite a virtual consensus about the rights of existing people with Down's syndrome to healthcare, an education, and inclusion in their community, there were significant differences in how participants believed they personally would adjust to an affected child. Furthermore, whether or not people with Down's syndrome were seen to be within ‘a continuum of normality’ sheds light on how views about the condition may be linked to views about prenatal testing and termination of pregnancy. The study demonstrates that people hold complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory views about Down's syndrome, and that these are likely to influence their prenatal testing decisions. Antenatal settings currently provide little opportunity for people to discuss and explore their beliefs about disability. It is argued that this may affect the ability of some individuals to make decisions that are informed by their own views and values.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Health Sciences (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2009 15:25
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2009 15:25
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.004
Status: Published
Publisher: Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam.
Identification Number: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.03.004
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7541

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