Capital gains: parental perceptions on the family and social lives of deaf children and young people in Scotland
Grimes, Marian Elizabeth
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It is known that the educational and social development of all children and young people are affected by the quality of communication within the family and by participation in social life and in activities outwith school. Although deaf children tend to under-achieve educationally and to experience marginalisation within mainstream groups, relatively little research has been located within family and out-of-school domains. This thesis interrogates data which were collected as part of a national questionnaire-based survey of parents of deaf children in Scotland. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of responses to closed and open questions illuminate parental perspectives on the extent to which deafness-related issues influenced: the quality of communication between their deaf children and family members; levels of friendships with both deaf and hearing peers; the amount and nature of their children’s participation in cultural and structured social activities; and parental facilitation of their adolescent deaf children’s independence. Although the majority of respondents indicated no, or minimal, disadvantages, a sizeable minority reported specific linguistic and social barriers which influenced key relationships and, in the case of activities, precipitated marginalising experiences. Whilst some clear patterns are revealed, such as a correlation with level of hearing loss and, in terms of parent/child quality of communication, with the hearing status of parents, there was a persistent level of unexplained diversity among those experiencing linguistic barriers. Limitations to the data restrict the generalisability of findings, although these have import in themselves. In addition, new knowledge is derived from the application of symbolic capital as a heuristic lens. Evidence of the diversity of family communication and ‘visitorship’ experiences are viewed in the context of linguistic access strategy choices emanating from the complexity of each deaf child’s habitus. Indications of differences between children of deaf and hearing parents, in terms of the balance of linguistic benefits and disadvantages, are considered in the context of social and cultural capital which is accumulated through access to alternative deaf and hearing networks. It is posited that, in order for deaf children to be enabled to realise their highly individual linguistic potential, and to optimise their accumulation of cultural and social capital, there is a need to address the imbalance within the linguistic spectrum of assessments and resources provided by specialist educational services. It is further argued that this should be within the context of a positive conceptualisation of deafness, and a holistic approach to assessment and service provision.