Guide dog ownership and psychological well-being

Wiggett, Cindy (2006-03)

Thesis (MA (Psychology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


This study explored the dynamics of guide dog ownership from a psychological point of view. The research was explorative in nature and employed two historically distinct methodologies of enquiry (both quantitative and qualitative). This explorative study relied on a very comprehensive literature review, which combined literature from three distinct fields of research: disability research, psychofortology and the human-animal interaction. Based on this literature review, three research questions were formulated. The first part of the study focused on the concept of well-being. The first two research questions dealt with the question of whether differences exist between the well-being of persons with blindness and guide dog ownership and persons with blindness without guide dog ownership. These two questions were answered in a quantitative fashion by employing Ryff’s Scales of Psychological wellbeing (1989) to two naturally occurring groups (n = 65). In general, no group differences emerged, but the properties of the questionnaire and some confounding may have skewed the results. The final research question explored the lived experience of anticipating and owning a guide dog in a qualitative fashion. Two interviews were conducted with each of six participants (one interview before guide dog ownership and one after acquiring a guide dog). The qualitative methodology yielded some very promising findings on the nature of guide dog ownership. Seven themes emerged from the first interview and eight from the second. Guide dog ownership seems to be a life-changing experience, with both negative and positive consequences for the owner and his/her psychological well-being. This study concludes with a strong argument for the complementary use of quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Recommendations are given for several service providers in and for the community of persons with disabilities, and suggestions are made for future research on a topic of this nature.

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