Date of Award

Spring 2002

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Bruce Mallory


The purpose of this study is to better understand the experiences of individuals with disabilities as parents, and the variables influencing the referral processes used by pre and postnatal care professionals to connect parents with disabilities to systems of family support. This process was examined through the experiences, beliefs, and attitudes of pre and postnatal care professionals as well as through the experiences and perspectives of parents with disabilities. Research objectives included both an increased understanding of the relationship between parents with disabilities and their earliest connections to systems of support and policy and practice recommendations for pre and postnatal care professionals, child protective services, and other agencies involved in supporting parents with disabilities. Primary research findings include the lack of training and understanding for pre and postnatal care providers about parents with disabilities; a higher level of parental referral to child protective services for professionals who have received training; the perception of discrimination by parents with disabilities; and recommendations for changes in the field of supporting parents with disabilities. Finally, the proposed research further defines best practices in the delivery of formal and informal supports to parents with disabilities. Outcomes of this research will ultimately influence policy development and direct practice in the areas of child wellness and family support when parenting with a disability is a presiding factor.