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Scandals of abuse: policy responses in intellectual disabilities

Peter Mark Halladay (Department of Health and Human Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)
Charlene Harrington (Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




The purpose of this paper is to compare two scandals related to the care of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in the USA and the UK.


A descriptive case study methodology was used to conduct an in-depth qualitative analysis of the two scandals to examine the process of scandal development, and to survey the policy response against policy trends and theories of abuse in each case. The two cases were systematically analysed against a theoretical framework derived from Bonnie and Wallace (2003) theoretical framework for understanding abuse based on its sociocultural context, the social embeddedness of organisations providing care, and the individual level characteristics and interactions of subjects and carers.


In both cases the process of scandal construction was comparable, and each case offered confirmatory support to extant theories of abuse, and to wider policy trends within I/DD.

Research limitations/implications

The study examines only the short-term policy responses to the scandals in two countries, based on published material only.


This paper contributes an international comparison of the similarities and differences in the social construction of scandal and the policy responses to abuse and neglect of a vulnerable population using systematic analytical frameworks.



This study was supported in part by US National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (Grant No. H133B080002).


Halladay, P.M. and Harrington, C. (2015), "Scandals of abuse: policy responses in intellectual disabilities", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 1/2, pp. 107-124.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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