Original Articles

Fathering a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis


Raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a stressful experience and has been associated with poor maternal mental health and increased maternal emotional distress. However, the experiences of fathers of children with ASD are largely unexplored and the coping strategies these men employ to cope with the challenges they face have received little research attention. This research aimed to explore the phenomenological experiences of fathers of preschool children with ASD by gaining a better understanding of the manner in which these individuals attempted to cope with their situation. A multiple, single-case study design was employed and five participants were recruited via two local paediatric practices. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the participants and data were analysed making use of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). This analysis yielded three superordinate themes, which were labelled as follows: (a) the experience of fathering a child with ASD, (b) challenges of fathering a child with ASD, and (c) coping with fathering a child with ASD. The results suggest that the fathers of children with ASD experience their parental role as stressful. The participants in the current study related the stress they experienced to a number of challenges associated directly with their children’s behaviour, as well as to the effects that parenting a child with ASD had on their own wellbeing and functioning. The participants reported making use of a number of coping strategies in order to deal with the challenges they faced. The participants used both problem-focussed and avoidant coping strategies. The results are discussed and recommendations made with regard to future research.

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