People with Intellectual Disability as Neighbours: Towards Understanding the Mundane Aspects of Social Integration

Laura M. van Alphen*, Anton J. M. Dijker, Bart H. W. van den Borne, Leopold M. G. Curfs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Although people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are increasingly expected to relocate from traditional institutional care to 'regular' neighbourhood housing facilities and socially integrate in these neighbourhoods, little is known about how they are perceived and appreciated as neighbours. This paper reports on interviews carried out with 30 neighbours without ID who were neighbours of small-scale care facilities for people with ID. Interviews addressed the neighbours' everyday experiences of neighbouring in general, and neighbouring people with ID in particular. Neighbouring, for these informants, called for a fine balance between friendliness without over-involvement. While they were generally positive about their interactions with their neighbours with ID, it emerged that the formal nature of the care facility and the interaction style of some of the neighbours with ID often contravened informants' assumptions about neighbouring. Informants expressed concern about a possible lack of appropriate distance, reciprocity and accountability among their neighbours with ID. The nature of the care facility, with paid staff, often group activities, formal means of achieving the everyday small tasks which neighbours sometimes do for each other, and a high turnover of residents, all undermined the possibility of a typical neighbourly relationship. In conclusion, we suggest that integration of people with ID into everyday neighbouring relationships raises complex challenges for care organizations that need to find a balance between supporting the needs of people with ID they care for, adequate support and mediation for other neighbours when necessary, and all the while avoid becoming overly involved in neighbouring as a formal partner.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-362
JournalJournal of Community & Applied Social Psychology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • neighbouring
  • social integration
  • inclusion
  • community
  • neighbourhood
  • intellectual disability
  • qualitative interviewing

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