Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen J. Sawin


Young women with mobility limiting disorders face many challenges as they move through adolescence into young adulthood. In addition to the challenges of this developmental period, they must consider their disability as they manage their lives. Competent decision making is a foundational skill for self-management and for transition in adulthood. It is also a protective factor for resilience.There is little research on decision making in adolescents with disabilities. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the decision making experiences of female adolescents and young women with mobility limiting disorders. Theoretical underpinnings for the study included Resilience Theory and Phenomenology. Phenomenological methodology guided data collection and analysis. Study participants included six young women between the ages of 16 and 25 who met established inclusion criteria. Participants were interviewed using an interview schedule. Transcripts of the audiotaped interviews were analyzed for themes. An individual profile of decision making in self-management for each participant was developed from analysis of interviews. A composite depiction of the phenomenon of decision making in self-management was developed from analysis of the participant profiles. The following conclusions were drawn from the composite depiction. Decision making in self-management is a dynamic, developmental process that encompasses choices across many dimensions of life activities. Parents' attitudes and expectations can have significant influence on the development of decision making in young women with mobility limiting disorders. Having or taking the opportunity to make decisions may contribute to the development of decisional competence and independence. Barriers, such as social stereotypes and lack of community resources, influence decision making. The ability of the study participants to "see past the disability" creates a broader vision of opportunities for decision making to achieve their goals.The results of this research should be useful to nurses and other health professionals as they collaborate with adolescents with disabilities and their families in fostering and supporting competent decision making in self-management. Future research is recommended on decision making in specific dimensions of self-management such as socialization and, using quantitative and qualitative methods to compare this phenomenon in adolescents with and without disabilities and between genders.


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Nursing Commons