"Mom will do it." The organization and implementation of friendship work for children with disabilities

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Steven J. Taylor


Organization, Friendship work, Children, Disabilities

Subject Categories

Education | Special Education and Teaching


Friendships are an important aspect of children's lives, but for children with disabilities, they often do not come easily. A considerable amount of work and effort is sometimes necessary to support children with disabilities in friendship creation and maintenance. Frequently, mothers are the ones to perform the work required so that children can have friends. This qualitative study explored the work mothers of children with disabilities performed for their children's friendships and social relationships. Twenty participants were interviewed in order to understand the details of their work, the organization of it, and the implications of the work for women, children, and schools. Findings included how women worked to create, maintain, and facilitate friendships between their children and children without disabilities. In addition, the work was also examined in the context of schools. The data uncovered mothers' expectations of friendship work in schools and how the work was arranged when schools were resistant, indifferent, or accepting of "social" work. Furthermore, the organization of the work was also explored. It was found that in the case of friendship work, both schools and families relied on the gendered assumptions that all mothers were able, willing, and available to perform the work. Findings also uncovered the positive and negative aspects of friendship work as well as class constructions of the work. Implications for mothers, children, and schools were discussed. Included in these implications were the need to reconsider and reposition mothers' work in a broader social context and also how schools can foster a sense of community and valued roles so that all children are supported.


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