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Dr. El's Dissertation

Not the Woman I Once Was: How Turning Points Shape the Trajectories of Military Mothers Parenting Young Children with Disabilities

The United States Department of Defense (DoD) is comprised of over 1.2 million Active Duty Service Members.Approximately one in six military family households include a child with a disability, or 100,000 children (Lester & Flake, 2013), with a large proportion of these children being age eight and younger. The military family’s quality of life is directly linked to service member readiness and the retention of high-quality service members (DoD, 2004). Therefore, ensuring that military families with young children with disabilities have the social supports needed to establish and maintain a high-quality of life is significant to maintaining our national security and the caliber of the U.S. Armed Forces. Given the high population of children with disabilities and the abundance of military families parenting young children, grounded in family life course theory (Elder, 1998), this study investigated the lived experiences military mothers who parented young children with disabilities as these mothers adjusted to being a parent to a child with disabilities within the military community. In particular, this study explored how the mothers navigated transitions and turning points that shaped their life course trajectories, while giving attention to the micro and macro level ecological factors that influenced the mothers’ parenting experiences and decision making.