Loneliness in mothers of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy: Case study methodology

Michele F Phillips, University of Rhode Island


Mothers of children with both severe disabling conditions and chronic illnesses have been known to express a myriad of negative emotions that are associated with their maternal role and particular situation. Scholars have described these mothers as alienated and socially isolated (Gayton, 1975; Loebig, 1990; Patterson, 1988). These mothers are also described as receiving less social support and having fewer social network members than mothers of children without disabilities (Florian & Krulik, 1991; Kazak, Reber, Carter, 1988).^ There is, as well, a pervasive theme of loneliness that runs through the literature on mothers of children with severe disabling conditions. This loneliness is often listed as a confounding or co-existing variable but is rarely the focus of the study. There is a lack of empirical work and alternative theoretical explanations examining this phenomenon and its underlying mechanisms in these mothers.^ To study this phenomenon Yin's (1984) case study methodology was used to examine the nature of loneliness and the relevance of two theoretical explanations, Weiss' interactional and Peplau and colleagues (1982) cognitive model in five mothers of boys with this disease.^ A surprisingly consistent finding across cases was the absence of loneliness. The development of loneliness was precluded in these mothers due to an intense primary relationship with their son. The lack of loneliness could be explained by the two theoretical viewpoints. The cognitive view on loneliness (Peplau & colleagues, 1982) provided the thrust of the explanation along with central concepts from the theoretical view presented by Weiss (1973). This study determined that the perception of loneliness was not felt by these mothers and the presence of a primary relationship between the mother and son was thought to preclude its development. ^

Subject Area

Health Sciences, Mental Health|Psychology, Social|Health Sciences, Nursing

Recommended Citation

Michele F Phillips, "Loneliness in mothers of boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy: Case study methodology" (1995). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI9608898.