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Title: Fathers' experiences of their adult daughters' anorexia nervosa : a qualitative study
Author: Plumb, Caroline Victoria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 5651
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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Caring for a loved one with anorexia nervosa has been demonstrated to be a stressful experience. There is a growing literature attempting to understand the experiences of parents who are carers; however, to date the views of fathers have been underexplored relative to those of mothers. In addition, theories of AN discuss or imply the importance of interpersonal factors, but have progressed without sufficient data on the involvement of fathers. This study sought to explore the experiences of fathers caring for a daughter with AN, using a qualitative approach. Method: A constructivist grounded theory methodology (Charmaz, 2006) was used to generate a new explanatory model from fathers' descriptions of their experiences, whilst openly considering the influence of context. Ten fathers were interviewed about their experiences caring for an adult daughter with AN; nine were recruited from a specialist regional eating disorder unit and one was recruited via a voluntary organisation, b-eat. Results: Fathers from the unit reported being involved in care-giving, and experiencing significant levels of distress, on a par with what has previously been reported for mothers. Fathers' distress appeared particularly linked to their daughter's loss of ability to reason clearly, leading her to resist family and expert treatment advice. This distress was associated with fathers' models of AN as a mental illness involving a failure of logic, which appeared heavily influenced by the unit's prevailing 'medical model'. In contrast, the father from b-eat viewed AN as a struggle with control and resisted hospital authorities. He was distressed at being left out while his wife did most of the care-giving. All fathers expressed significant distress, but also concealed or minimized their emotional experiences, either more or less deliberately. Conclusion: Since some fathers are highly involved in caring for daughters with AN, clinicians should not assume this role is adopted predominantly by mothers. Fathers regularly conceal the extent of their emotional distress, and may require special consideration by services to enable them to be more candid. Fathers' methods of involvement in care-giving appear derived from the model of AN they adopt, so it is important to understand fathers' illness beliefs and to include fathers' perspectives in theories of care-giving and of AN. Since fathers initially feel ignorant of AN and are very anxious, they can be heavily influenced by the views of those regarded as experts. This has consequences for the way they attempt to help their daughters recover, which has the danger of forming part of an emotionally invalidating system involving the family and services. A systemic perspective on adult AN appears important if the best care is to be delivered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: D.Clin.Psychol. Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available