A qualitative and quantitative analysis of the New Zealand media portrayal of Down syndrome

S. Wardell, B.A. (Hons.), R.P. Fitzgerald, Ph.D., B.A., M. Legge, Ph.D., B.Sc., K. Clift, M.A., B.A.

Disability and Health Journal, Vol. 7, Issue 2, p242–250
Published online: December 13, 2013
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dhjo.2013.11.006


There are only a small number of studies that systematically explore the tensions between the global shift to universal screening and the media representations of the people with Down syndrome. This paper contributes to the literature by analyzing the New Zealand media coverage of this topic.


To describe the content and quality of selected New Zealand media references to Down syndrome in light of the claim by New Zealand support group Saving Downs of state supported eugenics via universal screening.


Quantitative content analysis was conducted of 140 relevant New Zealand articles (from 2001 to 2011) and qualitative critical discourse analysis of 18 relevant articles (from 2009 to 2011) selected from television, magazine and newspaper.


The content analysis showed no strong directional reporting although the quality of life for people with Down syndrome was represented as slightly negative. Most articles focused on issues of society, government and care rather than genetics. The qualitative analysis identified themes around quality of life, information and bias, preparedness, eugenics, the visualness of disability and the need for public debate around genetic screening and testing.


The New Zealand print media coverage of these issues has been relatively balanced. Recent mixed media coverage of the topic is critical, complex and socially inclusive of people with Down syndrome.