This thesis is looking at the lived experience of parents of children with Down syndrome, focusing on interactions with strangers. I am drawing on the social model of disability which highlights attitudinal barriers to participation. The study is bringing together symbolic interactionism (Goffman), with its focus on exchanges between strangers, and the theory of emotion work (Hochschild) which highlights how people deal with their feelings and manage their responses in public.
How do parents experience being in public spaces with their child who has Down syndrome? How do parents perceive the views of others towards their child with Down syndrome? What kinds of cultural beliefs about Down syndrome do parents encounter? In what ways, if any, do these encounters affect the lives of parents and their families?
The study is using a range of qualitative research methods to explore these questions: in-depth interviews, group discussions, participant diaries and participant observation. I will be using a thematic analysis technique to explore the data. As well as highlighting the experiences of parents, and cultural beliefs about Down syndrome in contemporary society, it is hoped that the findings will provide a useful contribution to both policy and practice.