The experience of parenting school-aged triplets and higher-order multiples from the perspective of heterosexual, married mothers: A qualitative study
Pierce, Katherine Elizabeth
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In the past thirty years, the incidence of multiple births has risen dramatically. Although some research has been conducted on parenting twins, little research exists that examines parenting triplets and higher-order multiples. Research that has been conducted focuses on the issues faced by parents of triplets under the age of four. The current qualitative study was undertaken to understand the experience of parenting school-aged triplets and higher order multiples. The researcher was particularly interested in parenting stress, marital satisfaction, and class placement decisions from the perspective of married, heterosexual mothers of triplets and higher-order multiples. Participants were seven mothers of triplets and one mother of quadruplets; all multiples were between five and eight years of age and in Kindergarten through the second grade. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: (1) change in demands on mother's time, (2) adjustment in parenting and spousal priorities, (3) emphasis on fostering individuality of multiples, and (4) schools as partners in class placement decisions. Results indicated mothers of school-aged triplets and higher-order multiples experienced a change in time demands as their multiples had gotten older. Because their multiples were more independent and self-sufficient, mothers had more time to spend with their spouses and engage in more enjoyable parenting activities, which reduced parenting stress. However, mothers also expressed significant concerns about meeting the individual needs of their multiples. The second theme involved mothers assisting their multiples with social relationships between their siblings and peers. In addition, the second theme identified the shifting nature of the mother's relationship with their spouse. Mothers who felt their relationship was mutually supportive and their spouses participated in parenting and household decisions expressed greater satisfaction with their marriage. The third theme involved the mothers' emphasis on cultivating the individuality of their school-aged multiples. Class placement decisions were often made based on how best to maximize their children's independence and individuality and minimize comparison among multiples. Finally, the fourth theme identified the mothers' interactions with school staff as they made class placement decisions as largely supportive. Implications of these results were discussed and limitations and ideas for future research were identified.