PhD Graduates – Oliver

Mikki Meadows-Oliver, PhD
Spring, 2006

“Homeless Adolescent Mothers’ Experiences of Caring for Their Children While Living in a Shelter”

Homeless adolescent mothers are a growing subpopulation of the homeless. Previous studies focused on their familial relationships, experiences of abuse, and current stressors, not their living situations. No studies were located that examined homeless adolescent mothers’ experiences of caring for their children while living in a shelter. The purpose of the current study was to describe homeless adolescent mothers’ experiences of caring for their children while living in a shelter. Descriptive phenomenology provided the philosophical underpinnings for this study. Eight homeless adolescent mothers participated in the study. Each interview was audio- taped then transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed using Colaizzi (1978). The experiences of being a homeless mother and a homeless individual were interwoven. The six themes were divided into two overarching categories: Adolescent as Mother (themes 1-3) and Adolescent as Individual (themes 4-6). The six themes that emerged from the analysis of the formulated meanings were: (1) Children Caring Creating Crisis (The adolescent mothers, sometimes seen as children themselves, were caring for their own children with few resources and this created a crisis of in their lives that resulted in homelessness.); (2) Tough, Troubling, and Temporary Times (These were tough and troubled times for the adolescent mothers. Yet, they realized that their situation was temporary.); (3) Structure, Structure-free and Stressful (It was stressful for the adolescent mothers to have rules imposed on them, yet they felt that the lack of structure present in the shelter for children led to behavioral problems.); (4) Regrets, Repercussions and Reactions (Intensifying the feelings of stress while caring for their children in the shelter was that some mothers held themselves culpable for their current homeless situations.); (5) Hostility, Honesty, and Hubris (Adolescent mothers detailed accounts of dissension and discord among the mothers in the shelter.); and (6) Avoidance, Ambivalence, and Anger (The adolescent mothers were sometimes angered by the situations that they encountered while living at the shelter). Nurses working with homeless families may help these young mothers cope with the demands of shelter living while keeping in mind that distinctive support needs may arise during different times of the homeless experience.

Pictured above (from left to right):
Dr. Regina Cusson, Dr. Mikki Meadows-Oliver, Dr. Carol Polifroni, Dr. Arthur Engler and Dr. Deborah Shelton