Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Vey M. Nordquist

Committee Members

Priscilla Blanton, Mari Beth Coleman, Mary Jane Moran


Parenting a young child with disabilities presents unique challenges to both fathers and mothers. A comprehensive literature review revealed that there was limited information on parenting young children with disabilities and what was available was not cohesive, lacked a father perspective, and was based on quantitative measures originating from the perspective of parents of children without disabilities. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to provide a basic, comprehensive understanding of parenting young children, birth to five, with disabilities from both fathers and mothers. A total of twenty parents (ten fathers, ten mothers) of children with disabilities participated in individual audiorecorded interviews to discuss their parenting experiences. Grounded theory techniques were used to analyze the interviews and three main themes emerged: individual meaning-making, external influences, and the process of parenting. Parents indicated they parented the same as if their children did not have disabilities, but also discussed several modifications they made in their expectations and goals as well as parenting behaviors related to structure and guidance. Accordingly, the parents appeared to be expanding their parenting practices to accommodate the children’s disabilities and needed to be more intentional in their parenting approach in an effort to help their children be comparable to their peers. Also, both fathers and mothers were fairly similar in their parenting at the broadest level, but differences were evident when examined closely. Most notably, fathers were highly engaged in their parenting, but were limited by time constraints due to work schedules, which affected each area of parenting. Implications and recommendations for practice and future research are discussed.

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