Objective. The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the perceived past, present, and future occupational roles of mothers of young children. Awareness of the role demands placed on mothers will assist occupational therapists in addressing the needs of children with disabilities within the family context.

Method. One hundred and thirty-five mothers of children 6 months to 5 years of age completed the Role Checklist, which examines participants’ perceptions of past, present, and future occupational roles. Forty-five participants had children with multiple disabilities and major functional limitations, 45 had children with Down’s syndrome, and 45 had children who were typically developing.

Results. The group of mothers of children who were typically developing was found to have significantly more present roles than the other two groups. All three groups lost significant numbers of roles from past (before birth of child) to present and anticipated adding significant numbers of future roles. There were no significant differences among the three groups in value placed on occupational roles.

Conclusion. Role demands of caring for a young child were high for all participants, particularly if the child had a disability. Participants seemed to respond to these demands by giving up other discretionary roles in order to meet their caregiving obligations. Thus, asking mothers of children with disabilities to take on therapy-related caregiving tasks may contribute to role strain.

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