Recognising the “forgotten man”: Fathers’ experiences in caring for a young child with autism spectrum disorder
J Paynter, M Davies, W Beamish
Background: Despite decades of research on family adaptation in relation to caring for a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the wellbeing of fathers remains poorly understood.
Method: The present study sought to investigate experiences of fathers of young children with ASD aged between 2½ and 6 years attending an ASD-specific early intervention centre. Eighteen fathers initially completed a mailed questionnaire and 8 of these fathers were then interviewed by telephone. The questionnaire included standardised measures assessing constructs of the double ABCX model of family adaptation. The interview used open-ended questions to understand the experiences of fathers’ involvement in caring, sources of support, and coping strategies.
Results: Fathers experienced elevated levels of parental stress and elevated depressive symptoms. Interviews deepened understanding of fathers’ personal experiences of each component of the double ABCX model.
Conclusions: Findings from this study provide further insight into the fathering role and demonstrate the utility of the double ABCX model as a framework for exploring their experiences. The need for further research to explore practical implications to better support fathers is discussed.