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Title: A grounded theory approach to understand paternal adjustment to parenting a child with Down's syndrome : fathers' roles, satisfaction and contributions to family functioning
Author: Ridding, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6059 5835
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2016
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For most, becoming a parent is referred to as an overwhelming experience that requires the person to change their identity and lifestyle (Palkovitz, 2007). Although fathers' experiences are often overlooked, strong paternal relationships can not only benefit fathers, but also enhance children's development (Brown, Mangelsdorf & Neff, 2012). The past few decades have seen an increase in the active involvement of fathers in their children's care, attributed to changes in social circumstances and cultural values (Machin, 2015). However, there still remains a paucity of research focusing solely on paternal experiences. A further neglected group are those who parent a child with an intellectual disability (ID). Historically, research has focused exclusively on maternal experiences, describing fathers as 'hard to reach' (Hastings, 2003). Although research highlights mothers of children with an ID experience distress), it is suggested that fathers' experiences differ (Bailey, Blasco & Simeonsson, 1992; Lanfranchi & Vianello, 2012). The first paper presented within this thesis, a systematic review of paternal parenting experiences of a child with an ID, synthesises the results of the limited published literature. Eight papers are included in the review, with the majority being quantitative in nature and drawing conclusions from questionnaires completed by fathers. Moreover, several papers group fathers of children with ID together under one umbrella, where individual characteristics of different diagnostic groups might be lost (Cuskelly, 1999). For example, parents of children with Down's syndrome (DS) are believed to have different experiences to those parents of children with an ID of a different aetiology. It is suggested that parents experience a 'DS advantage', which is associated with lower stress levels and more positive views to parents of children with other IDs (Hartley, Seltzer & Abbeduto, 2012). Down's syndrome (DS) is a genetic condition, resulting from an extra chromosome 21 in each of the body's cells, which leads to most children with DS having mild to moderate levels of ID (Dykens, Hodapp & Finucane, 2000). Most studies which focus on fathers of children with DS highlight that, despite challenges particularly at the time of birth, fathers adapt positively (Bentley, Zvonkovic, McCarty & Springer, 2015; Henn & Piccinini, 2010; Herbert & Carpenter, 1994; Hornby, 1995). As noted earlier, most of these studies use quantitative methodology which fail to provide an in-depth understanding of experiences to the same extent as qualitative methods (Cuskelly, Hauser-Cram & Van Riper, 2008). Moreover, they specifically focus on different aspects of fathers' experiences (e.g. psychological well-being/stress), rather than fathers' adjustment overall and involvement in their child's provision. The second paper within this thesis does just that, through exploring fathers' lived experiences of parenting a child with DS. Through the use of the analytic methodology of Grounded Theory (GT) (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), fathers' accounts have contributed to a model of paternal adjustment to parenting a child with DS. Parenting a child with DS appears to be on a fluid trajectory, highlighting that the course of adjustment varies over time for each father. Three categories were identified which feed into this trajectory: 'Accommodating the child'; 'Adapting the parental/spousal role'; and 'Adapting society'. Each of these categories captured the challenges fathers' encounter that can hinder the adjustment process. Additionally, fathers discussed the deliberate strategies they use to overcome these challenges and shape their adjustment, which ultimately led to all 15 participants considering themselves to have achieved positive adjustment. The two papers together highlight the need for society, most importantly services, to support both parents as equal, without disregarding the involvement and needs of fathers. Fathers' roles and experiences need to be openly explored and recognised, enabling support to be offered if and when fathers would most benefit. Future studies exploring paternal experiences following the birth of their child with DS would further add to the richness of the model presented here. The empirical paper will be submitted to the Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. This journal brings together research in the area of ID and the author felt that the study's aims and findings were appropriate to fulfil the journal's scope and objectives.
Supervisor: Williams, J. ; Taylor, L. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral