Exploring the experiences of New Zealand mothers raising intellectually gifted children: maternal strains, resources, and coping behaviours
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Background: Parents raising intellectually gifted children are faced with unique challenges. To date, very little research has considered the impact the challenges associated with raising intellectually gifted children has on parents. Furthermore, the existing literature has largely overlooked the positive parental experiences relating to raising gifted children and the ways in which parents cope with challenges. This study explored the complex and multifaceted experiences of New Zealand mothers raising intellectually gifted children.
Method: Nine mothers of children aged 6 to 16 years-old, with a formal identification of intellectual giftedness, participated in a semi-structured interview about their challenging and positive experiences raising their gifted children, the perceived impact on their wellbeing, and their coping behaviours. Qualitative content analysis guided the data analysis.
Results: The Family Adjustment and Adaptation Response model (FAAR) was utilised to organise the results into strains and resources within four domains; psychological, family, social, and services. The findings indicated that mothers’ wellbeing was adversely affected by numerous strains from multiple contexts. Mothers reported experiencing exhaustion, stress, and anxiety in their role raising their intellectually gifted children. Strains such as social isolation, stigma, and dealing with schools, family members, and professionals that lacked understanding and awareness of giftedness were prominent factors. Mothers expressed tremendous frustration with the education system and lack of support services. Additionally, all mothers reported positive impacts related to raising their gifted children, including, personal growth, benefits, and adaptive coping behaviours.
Conclusions: This research makes an important contribution to the paucity of research on the experience of raising gifted children by highlighting the impact on maternal wellbeing and the need for support, understanding and awareness for parents of the gifted across multiple contexts. Understanding the experiences of mothers of gifted children can assist health and educational professionals in providing targeted support for parents of intellectually gifted children to ameliorate the daily strains and build on their existing strengths and capabilities.