June 2008

Document Type


Degree Name



Oregon Health & Science University


RATIONALE: Abuse and mistreatment of women with disabilities is a complex problem that affects their health and well-being. Previous studies have focused on heterogeneous groups of women with disabilities, with only small numbers of women with cerebral palsy (CP) included. It has been suggested by Hassouneh-Phillips and McNeff (2004) that specific disabilities may play different roles in relation to abuse. Exploring mistreatment of women with cerebral palsy is the first step in determining the relationship between mistreatment and a specific disability. PURPOSE: To describe the life experiences of women with CP who have experienced mistreatment and to describe how these women understand the meaning of their disability and their mistreatment experiences relative to gender, culture, social class, and power. METHOD: The feminist biographical method was used to promote an in-depth exploration of women’s storied lives, uncover the meaning of women’s lives from their own personal perspective, and provide understanding of women whose stories seldom have been told. A criterion sample of eight participants took part in two in-depth, audio-recorded interviews. Data analysis involved: 1) transcribing interviews verbatim, 2) ongoing analysis throughout and after the interviewing process, 3) use of the hermeneutical procedure of comparing the part to the whole and the whole to the part, 4) identification of themes within each narrative and across all of the narratives, and 5) identification of exemplars of themes and categories. RESULTS: Two major categories emerged from the participants’ narratives: 1) mistreatment, and 2) living with cerebral palsy. Subthemes of mistreatment include: 1) the meaning of mistreatment, and 2) outcomes of mistreatment in their lives. In the second category participants described living with CP at four different stages of development: 1) childhood through adolescence, 2) higher education years, 3) young adulthood, and 4) later adulthood. IMPLICATIONS: Addressing the issue of mistreatment is essential in providing appropriate health care for girls and women with CP. The first step in preparing this population for the challenges of living with their disability is to understand the significance of mistreatment and the meaning of CP in their lives.




School of Nursing



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