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The pattern of care in families of adults with a mental handicap: A comparison between families of autistic adults and Down syndrome adults

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The pattern of care in 39 families with a mentally handicapped adult member, 20 with Down syndrome, 19 with autism, was studied. There were no significant differences between the mothers, the fathers, or the siblings of Down syndrome and autistic adults in the amount of help offered with physical care, domestic tasks, and supervision duties. However, the brunt of caring fell upon the mothers, with fathers helping mainly with supervision rather than physical care or domestic tasks. Siblings offered less help than fathers. The autistic subjects exhibited significantly more behavior problems. Methods of coping with problems differed: Parents of autistic adults were more likely to “give in” and less likely to tell the handicapped person to stop than parents of Down syndrome adults.

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The study was supported by the Medical Research Council's Social Psychiatry Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London. Grateful thanks to Lorna Wing, all the families who took part and to Susie Ebsworth for her typing of the manuscript.

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Holmes, N., Carr, J. The pattern of care in families of adults with a mental handicap: A comparison between families of autistic adults and Down syndrome adults. J Autism Dev Disord 21, 159–176 (1991).

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