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A qualitative exploration of the identities of parents with a learning disability



Accessible summary

  • The number of parents with a learning disability in the United Kingdom (UK) is growing.
  • Parents with a learning disability do have some difficulties.
  • Parents with a learning disability see that their learning disability is separate to being a mum or dad.
  • Becoming a parent is important to people with a learning disability.


There are an increasing number of parents with a learning disability in the UK. Existing research in the area suggests that this group of parents face a number of issues including social isolation and over-representation in child protection systems. This study explored what parents understood about their learning disability and how they perceived this to impact on them in their parenting role. This exploratory study adopted a qualitative approach, involving semi-structured interviews with eight parents (three mothers, five fathers). The study suggested that as a result of having a learning disability parents experience some difficulties, however, these tend to be related to specific tasks only. In their parenting role, three separate identities were conveyed: as a person with a learning disability; as a mother or father, and as an individual (outside of their identity with learning disability or parenthood). The findings presented here are drawn from a larger qualitative study.