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Keywords:

  • ecological model of adaptation;
  • peer relationships;
  • spina bifida

Relationships are much more complex for those with disabilities than for those without disabilities. This study was part of a larger mixed-method investigation that explored comprehensive aspects of adaptation in adolescents with spina bifida (SB). The purpose of this qualitative component of the study was to explore the experiences of peer relationships in 31 adolescent women with SB. The participants were interviewed, and analysis was conducted for common themes. The five major themes and one subtheme were peers without disabilities (subtheme: peers with disabilities), normalization, challenges in peer connectedness, peer connectedness with adults, and romantic connectedness. Whereas some participants voiced close connections with peers, others described prejudices, stereotyping, and limited dating experiences. Results from this study support the need for comprehensive assessment of social relationships in adolescent women with SB and active interventions to address problems identified. Rehabilitation nurses are in a key position to implement social interventions in adolescents and young women with SB.