Taiwanese Fathers’ Experiences of Having Their Child Diagnosed With a Developmental Disability

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Abstract

Background:

Receiving a diagnosis of a developmental disability in a child can be a crisis event for parents. Gender differences in parental roles are worth considering when exploring the impact of having a child with a disability. However, most studies on this topic have focused on the mother’s experience, and little is known about what the father goes through as the parent of a child diagnosed with a disability. Even less is known regarding this experience in the context of the Chinese culture.

Purpose:

The goal of this study was to explore fathers’ experiences of having a child diagnosed with a developmental disability in a Chinese cultural context.

Methods:

This study used a hermeneutic phenomenological approach informed by the philosophical world views of Heidegger. The 16 fathers who participated in the study were purposively sampled from a teaching hospital in central Taiwan. Data were collected using in-depth and semistructured interviews and were analyzed using hermeneutic analysis.

Results:

Data analysis revealed four shared meanings: losing hope, feelings of failure, being frustrated with family conflicts, and searching for positive coping strategies.

Conclusions/Implications for Practice:

Fathers feel shock and despair as well as personally devalued when learning that their child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability. Chinese cultural beliefs and values can elicit different experiences for fathers while helping them make sense of their experiences and accept their child in meaningful ways. Nurses can actively engage fathers as well as mothers to understand their feelings and thoughts about their child’s disability to provide appropriate emotional and informational support. Providing support or referral is necessary particularly when fathers encounter issues with the child’s grandparents. Nurses can assist fathers to find a way to make sense of having a child with a disability within their cultural frame of reference by adapting cultural beliefs and values to their situation and to make meaning of their child’s life.

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