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Villkorat vuxenskap: Levd erfarenhet av intellektuellt funktionshinder, kön och ålder
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Conditional Adulthood : Lived experience of intellectual disability, age and gender (English)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to explore and analyse lived experience of social categorisations such as intellectual disability, gender and age. The following overarching questions will direct the focus of the thesis, on how 13 middle-aged (aged 38-60 years) women and men who receive disability services according to the Act (1993:387) concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments (LSS), describe their everyday life practices:

- In what way(s) are the social categorisations disability, gender, and age expressed in the interviews? How do the participants relate their lived experience of the social categorisation in relation to arenas such as work, family, and leisure time? How can this lived experience be understood in relation to the structures and conditions that form the institutions within the disability services?

With a hermeneutic-phenomenological approach, the thesis is based on repeated audio- and video-recorded qualitative semi-structured interviews and field visits. The altogether 16 participants were divided into two groups: the main group consisted of 13 adults and a reference group, which consisted of 3 younger informants (aged 25-29 years).

Despite political ambitions that state that people with disabilities should have opportunity to live like others, this thesis shows that their everyday life is, in fact, conditioned by institutional structures. The structures that conditions the disability services together with the social construction of disability, but also of age and gender, frames leisure time, social networks, family life, practicing partnership, mobility (especially for women), and working life – in short, these conditions their abilities to fulfil the expectations that are imbedded throughout the social construction of adulthood.

The relationship with the labour force can be seen as an illustrative example: The ability to be part of a regular working force was central for the interviewees. However, the analysis showed that the work that was available for the participants, is a welfare state effort, that is situated in an intersection where a logic of care meets a logic derived from the open labour market, thereby creating a situation filled with contradictions. On the one hand, the informants felt an obligation to fulfil an almost Protestant work ethic. One the other hand, their work efforts are not acknowledged by society as work. On the one hand, daily activity is a voluntary right, on the other hand; the informants have little opportunity to relinquish this right, depending on the particular organisation of the disability services. The participants also expressed concerns about losing this work, a worry that can be seen as paradoxical in respect of their legislative right to daily activity. 

The analysis has highlighted how the participants, in many situations, suffer a disadvantageous position with regard to hermeneutical resources to make sense of their experience. They also face structural obstacles to fully live an adult life. This could be described as experiencing societal norms of what one is expected to live up to, but at the same time be deprived of real opportunities to fulfil these requests – thereby, to live a contradiction. Lived experience of intellectual disability, gender and age, can therefore be considered as being a lived experience of a conditional adulthood.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2013. , 221 p.
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 76
Keyword [en]
Intellectual disability, age, gender, social categorisation, hermeneutical resources, lived experience, structurally conditioned adulthood
Keyword [sv]
Intellektuellt funktionshinder, ålder, kön, vuxenskap, social kategorisering, hermeneutiska resurser
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-70120Local ID: Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet, Avhandlings- och skriftserieISBN: 978-91-7459-644-1OAI: diva2:619615
Public defence
2013-05-31, Samhällsvetarhuset, hörsal C, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-05-08 Created: 2013-05-06 Last updated: 2013-05-06Bibliographically approved

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