Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Community living, social competence and people with intellectual disabilities

Usher, Erica (2001) Community living, social competence and people with intellectual disabilities. Professional Doctorate thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Available Upon Request


The psychological literature has, historically, portrayed people with an intellectual disability as socially incompetent, with low levels of community participation being seen as a consequence of this incompetence. More recently the literature has suggested that structural features of service design and staffing practices may affect the levels of community participation achieved by people with an intellectual disability. This study contributes to the ongoing debate in the literature by evaluating levels of social interaction achieved by people with intellectual disabilities across agency settings, and by re-examining the assumption that the interactional incompetence of people with intellectual disabilities is a primary determinant of poor service outcomes.

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, the current study examined the community living experience of 43 service users living in supported accommodation in rural and urban locations. In Part One, quantitative results indicated few differences in service outcomes between the two locations. In keeping with the international literature, few people had a range of relationships in the wider community and most spent their time at home, in the company of staff or others with a disability.

In contrast to the existing literature, however, qualitative analyses conducted in Part Two suggest that absolute levels of service users’ interaction competence, as gauged by the quantitative measures used in Part One, do not permit the assumption that service users’ deficits per se are a necessary and sufficient cause of impoverished social relations. Conversation analysis of naturally occurring interactions between service users and members of staff indicated that many staff behaviours prohibit the display of interactional competence by intellectually disabled people.

This study serves to add weight to the growing recognition that locating people in houses in the community is not enough to meet the policy goals of service providers. The study also suggests that the current romanticising of small, rural, communities as promoting high levels of integration may be mistaken. In conclusion it is suggested that service providers may profit from directing their attention to the fine grain of staff client interaction, rather than directing resources towards individually-based social skills training, if the policy goal of increased social integration is to be realised.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Rapley, Mark
Item Control Page Item Control Page