In this study the emotional responses of mothers to their children with learning difficulties were identified and explored. A narrative research design was used to capture a chapter in the life stories of eleven mothers whose children were attending a school specialising in ‘remedial’ education, relating their experiences and emotional responses regarding their child’s learning difficulties. Data was collected by means of individual interviews, letters from the mothers, field notes in the form of journal entries written by the researcher, as well as individual feedback and collaboration sessions with the mothers. Data was analysed by means of several phases of theme analysis, after which, through a final analysis, 18 emotional response themes were identified. Three emotional response themes were identified as exception themes. The 18 emotional response themes, along with the three exception themes, were then clustered around joyful, sad, fearful and angry emotional response categories. After feedback and collaboration sessions, the themes were then further interpreted through a final level of analysis to weave a narrative of mothers’ emotional responses to their child with learning difficulties. This study found that mothers experience complex emotions in response to their child with learning difficulties. The strongest emotional response themes that emerged, which were reported by all the mothers were frustration, happiness and love. The more positive emotional responses were mentioned in relation to their child being accepted at the school specialising in ‘remedial’ education, as well as to an increased understanding of their child’s learning difficulties. Mothers mentioned that they experienced frustration and a lack of support as regards being helped to understand their child’s learning difficulties better. It was thus found that an understanding of their child’s learning difficulties appeared to be related to a decrease in negative emotional responses and an increase in more positive emotional responses. All the mothers in the study indicated an emotional response of love towards their child with learning difficulties.
Dissertation (MEd (Educational Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2005.