The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological research study was to understand the
experiences of mothers whose young children engage in challenging behaviors.
Challenging behaviors are commonly thought of by professionals as a child’s personal
conduct that results in injury to self or others, and/or causes damage to the physical
environment, and/or interferes with the acquisition of new skills, and/or socially isolates
the child (Doss & Reichle, 1991). Challenging behaviors are considered to be
appropriate up until about the age of 3, unless the frequency, intensity, and duration of
the behavior exceeds what is developmentally appropriate for a younger child (Needlman
et al., 1991; Rapp & Hutchinson, 1987). Many studies cite a correlation between the
early onset of challenging behaviors, later deviancy, and criminal behavior, and several
studies have documented an increase in the prevalence of challenging behaviors in young
children. Given the documented correlation between challenging behaviors and later
deviant behaviors, the increasing reported prevalence of these behaviors in U.S. samples,
the frequently cited etiology of the behaviors as maternal and parenting issues, and the
involvement of parents in parent education as an intervention strategy, it seems
appropriate to have a better understanding of parents’ experiences of parenting their
young children who engage in challenging behaviors. In this phenomenological study, 10
mothers were interviewed about their experiences of parenting their young children who
first engaged in challenging behaviors between the age of 2 and 5 years. Some of the
eight themes found revealed that parents are tireless advocates for their children but don’t
always know what to do, parents want their concerns to be heard by medical and
education professionals, parents don’t cause their children’s challenging behaviors,
parents feel isolated, and all parents of young children who engage in challenging
behaviors may not have similar experiences. These findings are discussed in relationship
to other research on young children who engage in challenging behaviors, and mothers’
experiences of parenting them. Based on the consistencies and discrepancies between the
existing literature and the mothers’ reports in the present study, recommendations include
the need for more research to better understand this population of parents, and more
training for the professionals who work with them and their children.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation, November 2008,Major: Education, Work/Community/Family Education, Advisor: Dr. Ruth Thomas. 1 computer file(PDF); vi, 206 pages, appendices A-I
Goldsmith, Sherilyn Bone.
Experiences of mothers whose young children engage in challenging behaviors.
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