Caregivers of youth with emotional and behavioral challenges can experience isolation, stigma, and a lack of resources as well as parental stress and caregiver strain. Few studies have qualitatively explored caregivers’ perceptions of raising girls with emotional and behavioral challenges. A team of researchers explored three research questions: (1) How do caregivers of girls with emotional and behavioral challenges perceive their experiences with their daughters at home and in school? (2) What do caregivers perceive to be the most helpful at home or school for their daughters, and (3) What are the constructs of parent coping among caregivers of girls with emotional and behavioral challenges?
Researchers used a snowball sampling method to recruit and then conduct semi-structured interviews with 16 caregivers from urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Results indicated that caregivers perceived their daughters’ behaviors to be complex, that schools failed to identify girls for services and used reactive rather than proactive services, and that therapy and medication were helpful to the daughters and families. Additionally, caregivers reported coping through focusing on outside activities and through the support of family and friends.
Themes from this study were congruent with findings in caregiver strain literature. Caregivers also discussed managing the negative reactions of others and wanting to feel understood.
Caregivers of youth with emotional and behavioral challenges experience parental stress and caregiver strain; unique experiences of caregivers of girls are explored here.
Researchers interviewed caregivers of 16 girls with emotional and behavioral challenges from urban, suburban, and rural areas.
Caregivers perceived their daughters’ behaviors to be more complex than what is described in the literature as an externalizing-internalizing continuum.
Participants reported that schools failed to correctly identify their daughters and provided reactive rather than proactive services. Therapy and medication were also helpful interventions.
Researchers explored coping among these caregivers of girls with emotional and behavioral challenges.
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E.H.R.: Led the group as the principal investigator in designing the study, collecting and analyzing data, composing the manuscript, and managing the research team. M.H.B.: Involved in all aspects of the study, manuscript composition, and managed the manuscript revision process. D.W.: Involved in all aspects of the study and manuscript composition. K.I.: Collected and analyzed data. K.H. conducted data analysis and composed the methods section. M.B. collected data. A.K.-M. and A.S. conducted data analysis and assisted with manuscript revisions.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
The Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at Augusta University, George Washington University, Towson University, and the University of Pittsburgh reviewed and approved this study.
Researchers conducted all procedures, including informed consent and research activities with individual caregiver participants, according to the ethical standards of the institutional research boards.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix: Interview Protocol
Appendix: Interview Protocol
I. Background Information (Self Report)
Age, gender, race/ethnicity
Last year of school completed
Currently live in a rural/urban/suburban setting?
Current relationship status?
Number of people in household? Does this include the girl?
Girl’s age, race/ethnicity, grade
Girls’ age that emotional and/or behavioral disability was identified? By whom (school/family member/clinician)?
Girl currently receiving special education services?
II. Interview Part 1: How do caregivers of girls with emotional and behavioral challenges perceive their experiences with their daughters at home, at school, and in the community?
Can you tell me about your daughter?
When did you first notice that your daughter had emotional and/or behavioral challenges?
Did anyone else notice these challenges?
How have you tried to help your daughter? If others were involved, how so?
Tell me about your daughter’s experience at school.
Tell me about your daughter’s experience at home.
Tell me about your daughter’s experience in the community.
Tell me what your daughter is good at and not good at.
Tell me about your experience as a caregiver for your daughter.
What is the next transition for your daughter (e.g., middle school)? What do you need to help you?
Part 2. What interventions or techniques do mothers of girls with emotional and behavioral challenges perceive to be most helpful at home or school for their daughters? (facilitators of and barriers to)
What helps your daughter? What helps you as a parent?
How did you learn of those services or supports? Are the services for the family or just for your daughter?
Were there any professionals, colleagues, friends, teachers that offered support or help? Was this help effective?
Tell me about who you talk to about parenting your daughter.
Who else is involved in caregiving? How does that work?
If you could wave a magic wand, how would you like things to be different? (follow up question about school specifically).
Is there something that we haven’t asked that you would like us to know about your daughter or you? Is there anything else you would like to share about your daughter’s experiences?
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Rice, E.H., Brown, M.H., Whitlow, D. et al. Raising Girls with Emotional and Behavioral Challenges: An Exploration of Caregiver Perceptions. J Child Fam Stud 29, 1873–1885 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-020-01702-8