Constructing the (m)other: Dominant and contested narratives on mothering a child with Down syndrome

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This qualitative study explored the ways in which mothers of children with Down syndrome interpreted their experiences of motherhood. The narratives of 19 mothers were analyzed. The findings indicate that their identities as mothers were negotiated in the context of the sociocultural meaning of disability and dominant narratives on motherhood. In institutional and interpersonal discourses, they became positioned as other. Their narratives shed light on their resistance to otherness, their contextualized understanding of mothering a child with Down syndrome, and the ways in which they negotiated access to the constructed category of normative motherhood. The study suggests that a conceptual shift is needed in understanding the familial experience of raising a child with Down syndrome. Moving away from assumptions of negative outcomes for these families, professionals need to acknowledge the embeddedness of their experiences in sociocultural beliefs and practices that devalue children with disabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-293
Number of pages18
JournalNarrative Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • Attitudes towards disability
  • Children with disabilities
  • Down syndrome
  • Families
  • Family-professional partnerships
  • Motherhood


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