The Lived Experience of Adoptive Mothers of Children with Early Complex Trauma and Attachment Issues, A Qualitative Study
Beginning with Bowlby’s early work nearly 70 years ago, the importance of a child’s attachment to his or her mother or mother figure has been documented. Consequences of failing to develop a healthy attachment in infancy include the inability to give or receive affection, form long-term relationships, develop a conscience, or trust others. For the child who has experienced early complex trauma and attachment issues, rejection of the maternal figure is a learned survival mechanism wherein the child seeks to create disharmony and chaos that are more familiar than a sense of safety, trust, and attachment. Current literature has acknowledged the significance of the mother’s role in the healing of a child with early complex trauma and attachment issues but has largely ignored the mother’s experience. This descriptive phenomenological study of adoptive mothers sought to explore the mothers’ lived experiences and how those experiences affect the mothers physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. A conceptual framework developed by the researcher and based on Rogers’ (1992) science of unitary human beings guided the study. Giorgi’s (2009) procedural steps of data analysis and Saldaña’s (2013) processes of coding were used to guide data analysis. Four themes and twelve subthemes emerged from the data describing the experience of being an adoptive mother of a child with early trauma and attachment issues. Findings reflected effects of the child’s interaction with the mother on the mothers’ physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual behaviors and health. By exploring these mothers’ experiences and the meaning attached to those experiences, nurses and other healthcare providers may be able to more effectively provide support, education, and health promotion. Further, bettering the mothers has the potential to not only affect their lives but the lives of their children.