Academic journal article Family Relations

Mothers' Experiences of an Adult Child HIV/AIDS Diagnosis: Maternal Responses to and Resolutions of Accountability for AIDS

Academic journal article Family Relations

Mothers' Experiences of an Adult Child HIV/AIDS Diagnosis: Maternal Responses to and Resolutions of Accountability for AIDS

Article excerpt

Mothers' Experiences of an Adult Child's HIV/AIDS Diagnosis: Maternal Responses to and Resolutions of Accountability far AIDS*

Based on 13 in-depth interviews, this paper addresses mothers' initial reactions to an adult child's HIV diagnosis. Mothers described responses that included intense personal and emotional reactions. Additionally, mothers acknowledged the importance of resolving initial blame paradigms for the diagnosis, which included facing and resolving feelings of personal responsibility for the adult child's illness. Addressing feelings of blame and initial emotional reactions helped mothers to play active rules in the social support of their children.

Key Words: adult children, coping-stress-disease. HIV/AIDS, parent-child relationship, qualitative analysis, social support.

Social service providers and medical personnel often look to families of origin as potential sources of social support far adult persons living with AIDS, however little is known about the experience of AIDS from the perspectives of family members (Tiblier, Walker, & Rolland, 1989). Overall, the effect of the family of origin on an individual's adjustment to living with HIV has been addressed from the perspective of the individual with AIDS. Primarily, the literature has assessed family of origin involvement in terms of the availability of family members to assist the adult child living with AIDS (Weitz, 1990; Wardlaw, 1994), social support provision by family members (Jankowski, Videka-Sherman, & Laquidara-Dickinson, 1996; Stuhlberg & Buckingham, 1988), and stigmatization or rejection of the member with AIDS by the family of origin (Christ; Siegel, & Moynihan, 1988).

However, there has been a paucity of research on the experience and meaning of AIDS from the perspective of the family of origin. Primary research on the meaning of an AIDS diagnosis to parents and their willingness to maintain an active involvement in the lives of their sons or daughters with AIDS, has been limited (O'Donnell & Bernier, 1990; Beckerman, 1994). Previous studies an the family of origin have focused primarily on the amount of support provided by family of origin members (Stuhlberg & Buckingham, 1988) and the experience of that support from the perspective of the person living with AIDS (Christ, et al., 1988). Some research on parental and family of origin involvement with adult children with AIDS has emerged (cf., Brabant, 1994; Bunting, 1996; McGinn, 1996; O'Donnell & Bernier, 1990; Powell-Cope & Brown, 1992), however, these studies focused on the parent-child caregiving relationship and support roles, and they did not address the broader issues of parental constructions of meaning of the AIDS experience. Previous research has not provided an in-depth examination of family members' initial reactions to an AIDS diagnosis nor have the complex conflicts facing family members around the initial disclosure been addressed adequately. Given that mothers tend to provide more support than other family of origin members, and that mothers are often approached by social ser vice organizations to assume support roles for an adult child living with AIDS, it is particularly important to understand how mothers come to terms with an adult child's HIV diagnosis and choose to remain actively involved (Kubler-Ross, 1987; Wardlaw; 1994). Specifically, this paper examines, (a) mothers' initial reactions, (b) constructions of meaning around an adult child's HIV diagnosis, and (c) outlines the strategies that mothers used to assess and resolve personal feelings of blame and responsibility surrounding the HIV infection.

Research Methods and Theoretical Frameworks

The Participants

This analysis focuses on thirteen in-depth interviews conducted with mothers of adult persons with HIV/AIDS. The mothers ranged in age from 47 to 82 years of age, with a median age of 65 years. Four of the mothers were currently married, five were widowed, one was divorced, and three were divorced and remarried. …

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