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The Experience of Adolescent Women Living with Spina Bifida Part II: Peer Relationships


  • Gayle Roux PhD RN NP-C,

    Associate Professor And Associate, Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Gayle Roux, PhD RN NP-C, is an associate professor and associate dean for faculty at Loyola University Chicago's Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

  • Kathleen J. Sawin DNS CPNP FAAN,

    ProfessorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Kathleen J. Sawin, DNS CPNP FAAN is a professor at the College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and Joint Research Chair in the Nursing of Children at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and the College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

  • Melissa Hayden Bellin PhD MSW LCSW,

    Assistant ProfessorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Melissa Hayden Bellin, PhD MSW LCSW, is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work, Baltimore, MD.

  • Constance F. Buran DNS RN,

    Clinical Nurse SpecialistSearch for more papers by this author
    • Constance F. Buran, DNS RN, is a pediatric clinical nurse specialist at the Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, IN.

  • Timothy J. Brei MD

    Developmental PediatricianSearch for more papers by this author
    • Timothy J. Brei, MD, is a developmental pediatrician at the Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN.


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.