Date of Award

Winter 1987

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Murray A Straus


Are there characteristics of the handicapped child and/or his family which correlate with parents' perceptions of positive kin support? How does kin support affect the child's placement outcomes? How does the child's locus in the historical context of the deinstitutionalization movement influence his/her communitization?

To answer these questions, 93 families whose children were residents at Laconia State School and Training Center for mentally retarded people in New Hampshire were engaged in face-to-face interviews between 1984 and 1985. Each parent was read a list of possible resource groups (family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, other parents, clergy, doctors, and "others") and asked how frequently each gave assistance. Parents were asked who was the most supportive and to rate the level of supportiveness of extended kin, on a Likert-type scale as it related to their child.

Using multiple regression analysis, findings suggest that, at the time of community placement, the most significant variables correlated with perceived positive kin support are the child's gender, diagnosis, year of placement and the proportion of sisters living in the household.

Follow-up interviews of parents and their kin revealed the type of support offered, often depended upon families' developmental cycles. Though men and women relatives provide different types of support, at different times, their support seems to have a catalytic rather than a direct effect upon the mother's ability to identify and utilize available community resources. The data lend further credence to the increasing evidence of the benefits of identifying handicapped families' kin support networks, not only in terms of intervention and treatment but in terms of "communitization." This term is introduced as the logical political next step after the deinstitutionalization and normalization movements. It is argued that kin are the likely candidates for furthering this process since they reside midway between society-at-large and the handicapped families themselves. Policy implications of this study are discussed with regard to Moroney's notion of "shared responsibility" (Moroney, 1986) and Litwak's "principal of matching" (Litwak, 1985).