An exploratory study on the marriage of the people with mental handicaps

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An exploratory study on the marriage of the people with mental handicaps


Author: Chung, Wai-ming
Title: An exploratory study on the marriage of the people with mental handicaps
Degree: M.A.
Year: 1997
Subject: People with mental disabilities -- Marriage
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Dept. of Applied Social Studies
Pages: 111, 19 leaves ; 31 cm
Language: English
Abstract: With only a few exception, the respondents with mental handicaps under this study did not often exercise the rights in facing marriages. They usually did not have the choices and a say in deciding for their marriages. No subjects and their parents had mentioned about their rights to get married or to procreate. Also, many parents under the study showed sufficient recognition of the preference of their handicapped children in facing marriages. There were many barriers to hinder the exercise of right for the subjects with mental handicaps under the study. Many of their parents believed that their handicapped children were unable to make up their mind due to their low cognitive abilities. At the same time, the subjects with mental handicaps under the study admitted their limitations and inadequacies. They also mentioned that the community resources were limited. They usually adopted a very co-operative attitude with the parents. However, some singleton respondents with mental handicap had expressed their aspiration for courtship and marriage. It was noted that the attitude of the parents under the study towards marriage could be roughly grouped into three, i.e. supportive attitude, against attitude and ambivalent attitude. These parents would often consider one or several of the following aspects: the psychological needs of their handicapped children, the willingness of the family members to continue the carer role or to shoulder more caring tasks, and the future plan for the handicapped children, etc. It was noted that parents under the study often had lots of involvement in the marriages of the children with mental handicaps. Many of the parents would introduce mates to their children and even arrange the marriages for their children. Some respondents with mental handicaps did not engage in any forms of dating activities with their spouses before the marriages. Only a few of the respondents selected their mates and developed the courtship by themselves. All parents under the study would give support to the married handicapped children in the daily life and even take care of the grandchildren. The seven married respondents with mental handicaps had different ways to get married, i.e. cohabitation, wedding with ceremony only, wedding with ceremony and under registration. In fact, registration was not a common practice for many cases. Most of the spouses were of normal intelligence who could earn their living at the time when married. In reviewing the feelings and satisfaction towards the marriages, nearly half of the married respondents with mental handicaps were happy and believed that the spouses were good to them. They claimed that they had developed a satisfactory marital relationship. However, 3 married respondents felt bad with the marriages mainly because of the indifferent spouses. Problems with in-law and financial situation had increased the stress to the poor marital relationship. For most of the cases under the study, the quality of life appeared to remain unchanged before and after they got married. They were continued to be taken care by their parent's family. Most of spouses often did not help much to widen the social circle, to enrich the leisure activities, to improve the living standard and material well being. Only four married female respondents with mental handicaps gave birth to 5 offspring. 3 of these offspring were also mentally handicapped while 2 other were normal. Many respondents with mental handicaps claimed that they were not a good mother because they had to rely a lots on their own parents for taking care of the offspring. There were many problems and issues which were identified by this study that required for further actions: First, the people with mental handicap bad a high risk to be exploited by their spouses. Two respondents with mental handicaps under this study were treated by their spouses in a very inappropriate way. They seemed to be unable to protect themselves and had to tolerate the unfavourable situation for a long time. Resources and policy should be increased to improve the situation. Second, the marriages often increased the workload of parents. In fact, many parents wanted to release the family burden of looking after their handicapped children through marriages. However, they were often disappointed because the spouses were usually unwilling or unable to take up the caring task. Parents thus had to offer their continuous help to their married children with mental handicap. A mother under the study said that she had attempted suicide in the past because she could no longer handle the stresses originated from the marriage of her handicapped daughter. At present, the caring for the married people with mental handicap often rely on family support. The support from society should need to be reviewed carefully. Third, the people with mental handicap had lots of difficulties to perform their parent role. Many of the respondents with mental handicap were frustrated with their incompetence. They often lacked the skills and knowledge in taking care of their offspring. They also had difficulties to communicate with the children and establish a satisfactory parent-child relationship. Four, there was greater chance to have abnormal offspring. Most respondents with mental handicaps and their spouses did not seek pre-marital counselling. It seemed that they were not fully aware of the possible genetic problem. Also, they all lacked sufficient sex knowledge in birth control and pregnancy. There were many unexpected pregnancy which were identify at a very late stage. The protection for the embryo during pregnancy became difficult especially that some mothers needed to take psychiatric drugs. A few parents attributed the abnormal offspring were a result of improper pre-natal care and delivery process. They called for more attention and support from the medical staff on the needs of the female with mental handicaps.

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