Feelings of stigma and coping abilities of Indian families with mentally retarded children (2003)
Studies published in journals in the West have never looked at problems of the stigma of mental retardation in India. Most studies so far have focussed on stigmas in general, but have not investigated it along with family coping strategies and culture. Those studies that have discussed both stigma of mental retardation and culture have usually been based on a non-Indian sample. This thesis used a conceptual approach to study the effect of the stigma of having a mentally retarded child on Indian families, and also the coping abilities and strategies caregivers employed. Information regarding discriminatory experiences, stigmatisation, family and social support, and coping strategies and abilities of the respondents was gathered using a questionnaire. A majority of families claimed to have experienced stigmatisation through socially discriminating behaviour expressed by "normal" non-stigmatised parties. The discrimination faced was largely at the hands of a prejudiced society, one with its roots in the ancient Hindu caste system. While the extended family in Indian culture is usually no different from the immediate family, data showed little financial or moral support from them. For those who were members of a parental self-help group, a source of moral support was readily available in the form of other similarly affected parents of mentally retarded children. Few caregivers had much help from their own family members in looking after their retarded children as well as in peliorming household tasks. Many respondents were solitary in their struggle, with the spouse and other children being present in most cases but not always helpful. The coping strategies they used were more family-oriented as well as centred around the mentally retarded child, but very little coping involved self-related strategies (e.g. developing hobbies, being well-dressed, etc.).
KeywordsStigma (Social psychology); Children with mental disabilities--India--Family relationships; Families--India
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