Managing Prader-Willi Syndrome in Families: an embodied exploration

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9 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to explore the management of a rare chromosome disorder, Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), within families. It is particularly concerned with developing an understanding of the management of diet and other everyday practices affecting the body. People with PWS tend to experience poor muscle tone combined with food obsession. The level of control over diet needed to prevent obesity and related health complications is often lacking as individuals also experience various forms of learning disability, autistic spectrum disorders and behavioural problems. The findings are based on data from twenty qualitative case studies of English families with a young person with PWS. Analysis of management strategies highlights the centrality of embodied agency in shaping everyday practices and interactions. The significance and influence of biology within this process is particularly evident, as people with the genetic condition PWS experience embodiment and emotion in distinct ways and differently from non-PWS family members in the research sample. Focusing on the multidimensional nature of processes surrounding body management, the paper highlights three key management practices and explores how these practices are influenced by people with PWS and interpreted by family members. Three key practices are identified as: restricting access to food, keeping occupied, and use of routine. The study represents the first UK empirical sociological study of PWS and primarily adds an insight of family management of PWS to a medically dominated literature around the disorder. The findings can sensitise health and social care professionals to some potential issues for families managing PWS, and guide and develop appropriate interventions to support young people with PWS and their carers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-468
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011


  • Prader–Willi syndrome
  • Family
  • Body
  • Children
  • Food
  • Embodiment
  • Weight management


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