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Ngo H, Shin JY, Nhan NV, Yang LH
Correspondence: Dr Lawrence H Yang, email@example.com
Introduction Intellectual disabilities are as prevalent in East Asian countries as in the West (0.06%–1.3%). Widespread discrimination against intellectual disabilities in Asia may initiate stigma that places unfair restrictions on the social life of these individuals and their caregivers. We utilised established stigma frameworks to assess the extent to which a child’s intellectual disability contributes to the social exclusion of caregivers in Vietnam.
Methods A mixed quantitative and qualitative approach was employed to examine the experience of social life restriction among parents of children with intellectual disabilities. The child’s disability level and restrictions on caregivers’ social experiences were assessed among 70 mothers and fathers recruited from schools in Hue City, Vietnam. Qualitative responses describing social exclusion were also recorded.
Results Caregivers reported elevated levels of social exclusion. As hypothesised, parents of children with greater intellectual disability experienced more restrictions on their social life (Beta = 0.79, 95% confidence interval 0.27–1.30, standard error = 0.26, p < 0.01). Qualitative analyses indicated that the threatening of core cultural norms (inability to be employed or married upsets community harmony) initiated labelling, social exclusion and efforts to keep the condition secret or withdraw from others.
Conclusion This study is among the first to demonstrate the impacts of intellectual disabilities on caregivers’ social functioning in Asia. The findings illustrate how traditional Asian norms initiate stigma, which in turn restricts key social interactions among caregivers. Psycho-educational interventions may address the social domains in which caregivers are impacted and encourage sustained help-seeking among caregivers for their children.
Keywords: Asia, culture, disability, family, stigma
Singapore Med J 2012; 53(7):451–457