As applied to families, behavior and needs of individual family members cannot be accurately and fully understood by focusing on individual members in isolation… There are properties of the family that can be understood only by studying the relationships among members and interactions among its different dimensions.
(Turnbull et al., 1986, p. 46)
Until now, we have focused on the children with Down’s syndrome and their activities and relationships with sisters, brothers, parents and peers. In this chapter, we broaden the focus and consider the activities of the family and other relationships within the family unit.
First, we consider some of the activities and tasks that a family needs to accomplish and describe how the families in the cohort carry these out. We separate family activities into two quite distinct areas: the first is that of housework and child care, whilst the second concerns how the family meets the leisure, recreational and social needs of its members. Following this, we explore the parents’ marital relationships. This is done in three ways: by considering the process of decision-making with regard to the child with Down’s syndrome, by describing ratings we made of the quality and strength of the relationships and by presenting mothers’ views of how their relationships with their husbands have changed.
Finally, we consider some of the ways in which the women in the cohort feel that they themselves have changed as a result of having a child with Down’s syndrome. We describe maternal satisfaction and stress and the factors that influence these.