"Growing up in pieces": Adolescents with pervasive developmental disorder transitioning into adulthood

Date of Completion

January 2002


Health Sciences, Nursing|Psychology, Clinical




Transition into adulthood is a developmental outcome of late adolescence. The transition to independent living, for all adolescents, represents a normalizing task towards adulthood. For some adolescents with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) this transition occurs against a back-drop of impaired social relatedness, lengthy out-of-home placements, limited family support, and limited financial resources. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the experience of adolescents with PDD who have transitioned into a supervised apartment setting associated with an adult mental health services provider. The research questions addressed in this study were: What is the experience of adolescents with PDD who have transitioned into a supervised apartment setting? How do adolescents with pervasive developmental disorder perceive their current functioning? ^ The concept of transition, proposed by Chick and Meleis (1986) as a central concept of nursing, was used to guide the study. Descriptive qualitative research methodology was used to analyze data. Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants. Ten individuals volunteered to participate in a face-to-face interview that occurred in their apartments. A semi-structured interview was used to gather data around living environment, presentation of self, personal history, and relationships with others. The predominant request posed to participants was: “Tell me about something that has happened in the last few months that helped you understand that you were growing up and becoming more independent in your living.” Thematic analysis occurred with all interview data. ^ This research resulted in a number of themes. Descriptions of the growing-up event were clustered around issues of increasing independence, clarification of relationship with mother, and accountability. Other identified themes included unrealistic goals for the future and poor physical health. The predominant and unexpected theme from all participant interviews involved chronic sorrow. Participants were sad about their life situations, what they were missing, and what they lacked in social relationships. Nurses need to be aware of the quality of life issues around managing a severely impaired population attempting to live within a community. This study described the life situations of ten impaired participants involved in structured independent living within a community. ^