Effects on fathers of children with disabilities
This thesis investigates the effects on fathers of parenting children with disabilities. In the first chapter, models of family functioning and parental adaptation to disability are discussed. This is followed by an overview of the effects of disability on family members and a review of the literature on fathers in general. The second chapter consists of a review of the literature on fathers of disabled children. Included is a review of personal accounts by such fathers, followed by discussion of previous studies and previous reviews of the literature. The review concludes with consideration of the research evidence in support of seven assertions, about effects on fathers, on which there is a consensus in the literature. Chapter three describes the methodology employed in the current study. From a representative sample of 111 fathers of children with Down's syndrome, 97 were interviewed and 87 completed a booklet of questionnaires. The interviews were semi-structured in order to gain fathers' perspectives of the effects on themselves and their families. The booklet of questionnaires included instruments designed to measure: demographic variables; adaptation; stress; personality; social support; and, marital functioning. In chapter four, the results of questionnaire and interview data were considered in relation to the seven assertions about fathers which emerged from the literature review. Overall findings provided little support for the majority of these assertions. The interview data were analysed into 28 categories of fathers' comments which provided a description of fathers' perspectives of their experiences. The final chapter includes a discussion of the findings from questionnaire and interview data in relation to the existing literature on the effects on fathers. It is concluded that the existing literature may provide a somewhat erroneous picture of the experiences of such fathers. The chapter ends with a discussion of the major weaknesses of the current study, areas for future research, and implications for practitioners.