Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Elizabeth A. Suter, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Roy Wood

Third Advisor

Mary Claire Morr-Serewicz

Fourth Advisor

Bruce Hutton


Childhood disability, Family communication, Motherhood, Narrative, Social construction, Symbolic interaction


Through the use of narrative, this study sought to document the life-altering journey of 32 mothers raising children at various stages of development and with a variety of disabilities. The main questions guiding this research study consider the lived experiences of mothers raising children with and without disabilities; what these mothers reveal about the journey with their children; how these mothers define motherhood; and how their definition of motherhood differs for each of their children. To address the research questions and capture the narratives of participants, a two-pronged qualitative methodology was applied, using diaries compiled by participants and in-depth interviews structured by Arvay's (1999, 2002, 2003) collaborative narrative method. The narrative, social construction, and symbolic interaction lenses brought to this research study informed the analyses of the mothers' unique experiences. Through this analysis, significant findings emerged, including negotiating new meanings of motherhood, social alienation, grief, burden, medical scrutiny, the perception of tragedy, acceptance, growth, and absolute love. The findings from this study uncover key concepts which may be useful to medical and mental health professionals, educators, family members, and society as a whole. The results of this study strongly support the need to educate society about difference and break down the existing barriers. It is clear from this study that society must no longer consider individuals with disabilities as invisible and burdensome, and must learn to understand their differences and accept their personhood.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Lucie P. Lawrence


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

557 p.


Communication, Sociology, Women's Studies