Social networks and people with intellectual disabilities: a systematic review

Rachel Harrison, Jill Bradshaw, Rachel Forrester-Jones, Michelle McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Despite the importance of social networks for health and well-being, relatively little is known about the ways in which adults with intellectual disabilities in the U.K. experience their social networks. Method: A systematic review was completed to identify research focused on the social networks of adults with intellectual disabilities. Studies published from 1990 to 2019 were identified. Studies were thematically analysed. Results: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods studies were analysed to identify key factors influencing social networks. Experiences of people with intellectual disabilities identified themes of identity, powerlessness, inclusion, family and support. These themes are discussed with reference to theories of stigma and normalisation. Conclusions: Stigma and normalisation can be used to better understand the needs, desires and dreams of people with intellectual disabilities for ordinary relationships, from which they are regularly excluded. Implications for policy and practice are discussed in relation to building and repairing often spoiled identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-992
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number4
Early online date17 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021


  • normalisation
  • policy
  • relationships
  • social networks
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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