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Multiculturalism and Social Work | San Francisco State University

AIDS, the single mother, and planning for the future.

Author: Westpheling, G.S.
Author Background: Rutgers, The State Univ. of New Jersey
Date 1999
Type Dissertation
Journal Title:
Volume/Pages 35(1), No. 348
Subject Matter Research, Single-mothers; Planning; AIDS; Children
Abstract This study explored how single mothers affected by HIV/AIDS made plans for their young children as they faced death from a stigmatizing and terminal illness. More and more children are now living in single family households with mothers who have HIV/AIDS. The increasing number of childbearing women affected by HIV/AIDS contributes to the growing number of children who may become orphaned by the illness. The literature shows that when parents are faced with the tasks associated with planning for their children, most fail to do so. The study utilized a cross-sectional survey research design collecting both qualitative and quantitative data within a phenomenological context. In-person interviews were conducted with 30 HIV-positive mothers from February to June, 1997. By way of comparison, 15 HIV-negative women were interviewed during July, 1997 to assess the impact that HIV/AIDS had on planning. Both samples were comprised of primarily single, African-American mothers who were between the ages of 18 to 42. The results for the HIV-positive women showed that spirituality, one of 12 independent variables, impacted both planning, the dependent variable, and the emotional effects of death and dying, the intervening variable. Its effect was to reduce the psychological sequelae associated with death and dying and to hasten the activities that supported planning. Eight other independent variables also were shown to have an impact on planning: mother's age, children's age, race, illness symptomatology, illness disclosure, kinship networks, children's gender, and the biological father. Socioeconomic status, injecting drug usage, and children's behavioral problems, the three remaining independent variables, were not found to have any direct impact on planning although their implications were discussed. The findings showed that the HIV-negative mothers had fewer spiritual characteristics and were much less likely to make plans than the HIV-positive women were. While the HIV-negative women were less likely to make plans, the following variables were associated with planning when they talked about it: mother's age, illness symptomatology, kinship networks, children's gender, and the biological father.