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Child rearing, Parent-child relations, Parenting



  1. Johnson, Barbara Schoen PhD, RN, CS, PMHNP


Purpose: To describe how mothers of children with physical disabilities identified their parenting strengths and weaknesses, encouraged their child's social skills and learning, nurtured and disciplined their child, and perceived their parenting successes and problems.


Design: Grounded theory.


Methods: Focused telephone interviews were conducted with mothers of preschool to elementary school-age children with mild to moderate physical disabilities. The mothers were asked what they were doing well and "not well" in parenting their disabled child, their difficulties, their child's preparation for other children's questions/teasing, their encouragement of social skills and learning, and their discipline and nurturance.


Results: The theory that emerged from the data was parental straddling, which occurred on three levels. Parents were living in the past and the present, striving to view their child as "normal" when, in fact, the child was disabled, and were simultaneously dealing with their own and their child's issues and feelings.


Clinical Implications: Nurses need to understand the complexity of the parents' straddling their roles and tasks. They can provide needed emotional support by allowing parents to express their fears and feelings in an atmosphere of nonjudgmental acceptance. Nurses can prepare parents for anticipated grief work, reassure them that their experiences are expected and normal, reinforce their use of normalization strategies, and help them separate their own from their child's issues and feelings.