Bitter experiences of elderly parents of children with intellectual disabilities: A phenomenological study

Arya Hamedanchi, Hamid Reza Khankeh, Reza Fadayevatan, Robab Teymouri, Robab Sahaf


Background: It is predicted that over the next 30 years, there will be a significant increase in the number of elderly parents who care for their children with intellectual disability. This paper is part of a larger qualitative study which investigated the unpleasant experiences of these parents.

Materials and Methods: A phenomenological approach was adopted and data were collected through unstructured in‑depth interviews with elderly parents of children with intellectual disability. The data were analyzed using Colaizzi’s seven‑step method.

Results: “Bitterness” is one of the four emergent themes extracted in this study which has five theme clusters: inappropriate behavior toward the child in the society, the society’s failure to support the child with intellectual disability, sorrows experienced by parents, the child’s problems, and barriers in the care of the child with intellectual disability. One significant barrier in the last theme cluster is limitations due to aging.

Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest that the elderly parents of children with intellectual disability experience many sorrows and unpleasant feelings, but they mostly consider the social factors as the cause of problems and not the presence of the child. The results also indicate that older parents cannot look after the child as before in their old age; so, future well‑designed studies are required for identification of the process of supporting them.



Child; children with intellectual disabilities; elderly parents; intellectual disability; Iran; parents; phenomenology; qualitative research

Full Text:



Vickers K. Aging and the media: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Calif J Health Promot 2007;5:100‑5.

Majumdar M, Da Silva Pereira Y, Fernandes J. Stress and anxiety in parents of mentally retarded children. Indian J Psychiatry 2005;47:144‑7.

Bayat M, Salehi M, Bozorgnezhad A, Asghari A. The comparison of psychological problems between parents of intellectual disabilities children and parents of normal children. World Appl Sci J 2011;12:471‑5.

Greer FA, Grey IM, McClean B. Coping and positive perceptions in Irish mothers of children with intellectual disabilities. J Intellect Disabil 2006;10:231‑48.

Barbosa MA, Chaud MN, Gomes MM. Experiences of mothers of disabled children: A phenomenological study. Acta Paul Enferm 2008;21:46‑52.

Pilusa NE. The Impact of Mental Retardation on Family Functioning. Pretoria, South Africa: University of Pretoria; 2006. p. 79.

Jack M, Guralnik LF. Demography and epidemiology. In: Halter JB, editor. Hazzard’s Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw‑Hill Companies; 2009. p. 69.

Holloway I, Wheeler S. Qualitative Research in Nursing and Healthcare. Oxford: John Wiley and Sons; 2013. p. 214.

Colaizzi PF. Psychological research as the phenomenologist views it. In: Valle RS, King M, editors. Existential‑Phenomenological Alternatives for Psychology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press; 1978. p. 6.

Hamedanchi A, Sahaf R, Fadaye Vatan R, Khankeh HR. The lived experience of spirituality by the elderly parents of children with intellectual disability ‑ A phenomenological study. Salmand Iran J Ageing 2013;8:70‑8.

Reichman NE, Corman H, Noonan K. Impact of child disability on the family. Matern Child Health J 2008;12:679‑83.

Mohammadkhan‑Kermanshahi S, Vanki Z, Ahmadi F, Azad‑Fallah P, Kazem‑Nezhad A. Mother’s experiences of having mental retarded child. J Rehabil 2006;7:26‑33.

Minnes P, Woodford L. Well‑being in aging parents caring for an adult with a developmental disability. J Dev Disabl 2005;11:47‑66.

Kearney PM, Griffin T. Between joy and sorrow: Being a parent of a child with developmental disability. J Adv Nurs 2001;34:582‑92.

Kausar S, Jevne RF, Sobsey D. Hope in families of children with developmental disabilities. J Dev Disabl 2003;10:35‑46.

Haworth AM, Hill AE, Glidden LM. Measuring religiousness of parents of children with developmental disabilities. Ment Retard 1996;35:271‑9.


  • There are currently no refbacks.