The process of empowerment in mothers of chronically ill children

J Adv Nurs. 1995 Jun;21(6):1201-10. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1995.21061201.x.


As a result of advances in scientific knowledge and technology, the number of children living with chronic illness is ever increasing. The burden of responsibility for the care of these children falls increasingly on the involved parents and, particularly, on mothers. In spite of the challenges that chronic childhood illness presents, many families are able to adapt to their situation and develop a sense of control over their lives. A sense of control has been associated with the notion of empowerment. Following a theoretical analysis, empowerment was conceptualized as a social process of recognizing, promoting and enhancing people's abilities to meet their own needs, solve their own problems, and mobilize the necessary resources in order to feel in control of their own lives. To understand the concept of empowerment from an empirical perspective, a fieldwork study was undertaken to describe the process of empowerment as it pertains to mothers of chronically ill children. This paper presents the process of empowerment that occurred in these mothers. Four components of the process of empowerment emerged: discovering reality, critical reflection, taking charge, and holding on. As a result of the study, empowerment was reconceptualized as largely a personal process in which individuals developed and employed the necessary knowledge, competence and confidence for making their voices heard. Participatory competence--the ability to be heard by those in power--was the outcome of this process. Although the unique finding in this study suggests that the process of empowerment was largely intrapersonal, there was a relational element in the process. Clearly, the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes of empowerment are intertwined.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Brain Diseases / psychology
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Negotiating
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Adjustment*
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United States