• Parenting;
  • Occupational role;
  • Participation;
  • Grounded theory



To describe the impact of chronic, inflammatory arthritis on parenting and to develop a conceptual framework for subsequent study of mothering.


A qualitative, grounded theory design guided data collection and analysis. In-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 12 women with either rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or systemic lupus erythematosus who were mothers of at least 1 child living at home. Transcripts were analyzed using a systematic approach of coding and forming concepts and key categories to construct an explanatory framework. Peer checking and member checking enhanced analytical rigor.


Analysis of participants' experiences resulted in 4 interrelated categories describing the impact of arthritis on their role as mothers: participation in mothering tasks, best described as “sometimes I can, sometimes I can't”; different types and levels of support from others; the influence of the mother's arthritis on the family; and the challenge of balancing energy and fatigue. Individuals' arthritis story, life stage, their children's developmental stage, and daily routine described the context in which mothers experienced elements of each of the 4 main categories.


Inflammatory arthritis has a dramatic impact on the experience of motherhood, with both positive and negative influences. The perspectives shared by study participants may inform practice regarding problem identification and adaptive strategies, and the explanatory model generated from the data proposes hypotheses for further study.