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Intertwining to fit in : a grounded theory study of caregivers with school-aged children with FASD Swart, Suretha


My study aimed to explain how caregivers of school-aged children with FASD manage their children’s schooling. Symbolic interactionism served as the guiding theoretical perspective. I used a Glaserian approach to grounded theory to develop a substantive theory: intertwining to fit in. I collected data through interviews, participant observation, and document analysis. I completed 30 in-depth interviews and 25 hours of participant observation with children’s caregivers between February 2009 and November 2009. I used constant comparative analysis to construct my substantive theory. Intertwining to fit in is a dynamic cycle caregivers of elementary school-aged children with FASD use to resolve their main concerns, which are preventing their children from failing academically and in social interactions and preventing themselves from being regarded as “bad” parents. To intertwine to fit in parents used two strategies, orchestrating schooling and keeping up appearances, while they were regulating the relationships with their children. Caregivers used the strategies to try to achieve academic and social success for their children and to be regarded as “good” parents. Using the strategies successfully reduced the amount of time parents spent regulating their relationships with their children and permitted children more independence. Conditions caregivers encountered, for example key workers, influenced how caregivers used the strategies and related tactics. Using the strategies resulted in caregivers encountering two critical junctures: hitting rock bottom and reaching islands of calm. When hitting rock bottom neither of the strategies were working, children were not succeeding, and caregivers were focused on regulating relationships with their children. Reaching islands of calm occurred when strategies were successful and parents could invest more time in themselves. During critical junctures, caregivers re-engaged with the school system. Short-term outcomes associated with critical junctures affected the long-term outcomes caregivers were trying to achieve. “Intertwining to fit in,” contributes to literature on attachment and parenting and extends explanations about caregivers’ advocacy for their children. The substantive theory has implications for school psychology practice, training, and research, as well as school personnel. The theory is also important in illuminating approaches to managing for the caregivers of school-aged children with FASD.

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