Date of Conferral
Dr. William Disch
For a mother raising a child with special health care needs (CSHCN), maintaining positive feelings of gratitude can become challenging because of the stress associated with caregiving, as well as the consequences of unmanaged stress, which include decreases in both physical and psychological health and well-being. Chronic, unmanaged stress has been associated with various health issues that can be severe and potentially life-threatening. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine how mothers raising a CSHCN experience gratitude. A secondary purpose was to identify possible barriers to experiencing gratitude, which, when implemented as a coping style, may decrease the negative effects of daily stress and improve mental health. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions along with the transactional model of stress and coping provided an optimal conceptual framework for this study. The research questions were centered around the challenges and stressors unique to each mother, coping strategies, and gratitude. The ways in which the combination of factors contributed to quality of life among the mothers were examined specifically. Data from face-to-face interviews with 15 mothers were transcribed, coded, and thoroughly analyzed for themes. The primary themes that emerged were support from family and friends, feelings of gratitude, coping mechanisms, life satisfaction, gratitude for a flexible job, stress related to full dependency, high stress levels over the past 30 days, increased stress when describing the child, and a need to work on eating habits. Findings and recommendations from this study may contribute to positive social change and support the benefits of gratitude, especially in highly stressful situations.