Children of Disabled Parents

By Tony Newman.
Russell House Publishing
ISBN 1 903855 20 9

Tony Newman’s humane and challenging discussion of the impact of
parental disability on children criticises the orthodoxy in social
welfare that pathologises disabled parents and their

Newman argues that disability and illness are the “default” of the
human condition, yet traditionally welfare agencies focus on
impairment as the source of perceived problems rather than
examining debilitating factors in the social context in which such
families live.

Through analysing the research literature, Newman exposes the
contradictions and weakness of research methodologies, uncovering a
bias that searches for pathological child responses to parental
impairment. He deconstructs the emerging phenomenon of “the young
carer”, providing his own definition as “the child of disabled
parents whose family suffers from severe deficit of support from
statutory, voluntary and informal sources”, and asserts that this
labelling and the interventions it generates may do more harm than

Newman argues for recognition of the inherent capacity of children
to cope with and “even benefit from adversities”, urging
professionals to reconsider the consequences of applying
professional labels.

Christine Wilson is a disabled parent and a disability
equality consultant.

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