Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Kristine Lund

Advisor Role

Dissertation advisor


This phenomenological study explored the lived experiences of maternal-child interconnection among 12 mothers raising children, of any age, with developmental disabilities as well communication challenges. During semistructured interviews, mothers told stories of maternal-child interconnection that described a sacred, mutual, and unique interpenetration of experiences between mother and child that was nurtured and sustained by ongoing togetherness. Mothers also shared that their unique mother-child interconnection was difficult to articulate, and often poorly understood beyond the mother-child dyad.

Maternal-child interconnection allowed mothers to understand their children’s unique, often non-verbal communication. As a result, mothers of children with significant communication challenges were able to effectively interpret their children’s bodies, experiences, and health status, and correspondingly advocate for their children amid health care environments. Mothers noted that health care environments often questioned mothers’ intuitive knowledge of their child, and as a result their children’s care was compromised when their unique “knowing” was ignored.

The results of this study indicated similarities to the existing literature that defined a complex, leaky body, and challenged the traditional notion of Cartesian dualism, as well as offered insight into the value of maternal knowledge. In particular, the challenges for mothers of children with disabilities who must regularly navigate a patriarchal medical model were noted. Theologically speaking, the results of this study explored pastoral and spiritual care within communities that endorsed a supportive, affirming, and nonanxious form of authentic friendship for caregiving mothers who might vicariously enter their children’s experiences. Similarly, the imago Deiwas considered as a source of insight for interconnected, embodied knowledge.

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