Using a novel approach to participatory network mapping to understand value creation in the lives of families with a primary school-aged child with intellectual disability

Ms Jane Adams1, Professor Leanne Dowse1, Associate Professor Angela Dew2

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Parents of primary school-aged children with intellectual disability play a vital role in navigating complex service systems and integrating NDIS funded supports into family life. Personal network mapping techniques have often resulted in simplified network representations, limiting their utility in understanding the impact of network characteristics on families’ efforts to create value.

Multiple case studies conducted over six months involved a series of interviews with six parents from five families, and co-construction of personal network maps. Interviews captured changes in family life and personal networks. Magnets on a whiteboard depicted the network, allowing a detailed representation of the relationships between individuals and those of collectives such as families and organisations.

This method generated detailed personal network maps that reflected the complexity of families’ lives. The network maps included longstanding relationships and key services as well as emerging connections. In addition to allowing insight into the process of value creation that parents engage in, this approach facilitated exploration of actors and relationships implicated in value destruction. The detailed network data provided insight into the complex interplay between the networks of parents in relation to their children, and hinted at processes that support the emergence of the child’s own network.

Understanding how parents engage in value creation is a necessary step in contributing to a service system that supports children and their families more effectively. This method of capturing and analysing the complexity of the networks of parents and families has potential in research, policy and service settings.


Jane Adams is PhD student at UNSW Sydney. Her research is with parents of primary-school aged children with disability, looking at how they develop and use their service and support networks under the NDIS. Jane has a background working as a speech pathologist with children with disability and their families.

Recent Comments
    Recent Comments