Internship report for the MSc research internship Biomedical Sciences, specialization International Public Health, done at the department of Medical Humanities and Disability Studies, VUmc.
Fathers of children with disability are greatly overlooked in research due to the predominant focus on mothers. Furthermore, there is a lack of research to the diverse nature of fatherhood in this context. Therefore, this study aimed to gain insight into the experiences of fathers of children with disabilities. Data collection was performed through semi-structured interviews with twelve Dutch fathers of children (under 23 years) with disabilities. Furthermore, pilot data of eight fathers of children (under 23 years) with disabilities, who participated in the European fathers’ study, was used. Categories that emerged during data analysis were similar to the factors illustrated in the conceptual framework on ‘responsible fathering’ by Doherty, Kouneski & Erickson (1998), including ‘role identification’, ‘commitment’, ‘employment characteristics’, ‘cultural expectations’ and ‘social support’. Overall, the fathers in this study reported similar experiences; however, Dutch fathers identified less with the provider role and reported more opportunities for social support as opposed to the European fathers. Above all, this study identified ‘new life perspective’ as an additional category, which might be specific for fathers of children with disabilities. This new life perspective included a positive attitude, living in the moment, appreciation of the little things and the transformation of expectations. Some fathers expressed that this experience has enriched their lives, which positively influenced their fathering experience.
This research project aims to study the experiences of Dutch fathers on fathering children with disabilities in order to gain insight into the nature of fathering.
This study aimed to interview a diverse group of Dutch fathers of children with various disabilities (both intellectual and/or physical). A qualitative study design was chosen as qualitative methods are the preferred method for gaining an understanding of the experiences of people (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). First, the experiences of fathering are studied using semi-structured interviews with Dutch fathers. Thereafter, pilot data from a European fathers’ study was used to view the experiences of these fathers from a broader perspective. This ‘lens’ comparison approach was applied for the ‘illuminating, critiquing and challenging’ (Walk, 1998) of the experiences of Dutch fathers.
A key finding of this study was the substantial influence of the ‘new life perspective’ on the fathering experience. However, this factor was not depicted in the conceptual model on ‘responsible fathering’ (Doherty et al., 1998), which suggests that this is an additional or specific factor influencing the experiences of fathers of children with disabilities.
The findings of this study indicate that the conceptual model on ‘responsible fathering’ by Doherty et al. (1998) can be used to study fathering experiences in the presence of disability. The experiences of 36 fathers of children with disabilities are challenging, but overall positive. Some fathers emphasized the enrichment of their lives through their ‘new life perspective’. This study highlights the additional influence of the ‘new life perspective’ on the fathering experience, which was frequently reported by these fathers and is not mentioned in the conceptual model. The European fathers’ pilot study showed a comparable recognition of the ‘new life perspective’, which suggest a universal influence of this aspect on the fathering experience.
Internship report for the MSc research internship Biomedical Sciences, specialization International Public Health.
This project is a part of a larger European Father’s Project. The Father’s Project is a collaboration between (European) universities, including Ghent University, University of Iceland, University of Akureyri, Lillehammer University, Open University UK and Disability Studies in the Netherlands.
This specific study was performed in collaboration with the Erasmus Mundus project of the Ghent University.
Majoska Berkelaar, research intern/student
Dr. Minne Bakker, VUmc, supervisor
Dr. Alice Schippers, DSiN, supervisor
Prof. dr. Geert Van Hove, Ghent University, final responsibility for the project
Erasmus Mundus students of Ghent University, who shared their interviews with European fathers