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Fathers of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Understanding Stress, Coping, and Opportunities for Growth

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect an individual’s communication, social interactions, adaptive functioning, and academic achievement (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Prevalence rates of those diagnosed with ASD have been increasing, with rates rising to one in 68 children diagnosed with ASD by the eight years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Although the presence of ASD symptomology varies between individuals, parents of children with ASD may experience a myriad of challenges in raising their child. Considering the pervasive nature of ASD, this subset of parents may be at an additional risk to experience chronic stress over time, which can lead to caregiver burnout or maladjustment to their parenting situation (Benson, 2014; Paynter et al., 2013; Pedersen, Crnic, & Baker, 2015). Although this experience is undoubtedly challenging, recent trends in the literature have suggested that this subset of parents may also be apt to experience stress-related growth or benefits in light of their parenting experience (DePape & Lindsay, 2015); however, less is known about this experience with fathers in general. Considering the lack of research on the experience of fathers with children with ASD, the current phenomenological study sought to better understand the parenting experience with fathers, including how their experience has changed over time. The current study also investigated the notion of stress-related growth with a small sample of fathers. Five fathers were successfully recruited for participation in the current study to answer the following research questions: Research Question 1: How do fathers initially describe the experience of raising a child with ASD and how has this experience changed over time? Research Question 2: What meaning or stress-related growth do fathers attribute to raising a child with ASD? To answer these questions, the participants first provided demographic information through an online survey and then completed a semi-structured interview with the researcher to learn more about their respective experiences. The data from this study resulted in the identification of four superordinate themes (e.g., initial impact, early stressors, coping strategies, and change over time), with 14 subordinate themes related to understanding the first research question (e.g., experience of fatherhood). Two superordinate themes (e.g., lessons learned, personal growth), with six subordinate themes, were associated with answering the second research question (e.g., meaning attributed to the parenting experience). / A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. / Summer Semester 2018. / July 5, 2018. / Includes bibliographical references. / Angela I. Canto, Professor Directing Dissertation; Juliann Woods, University Representative; Beth Phillips, Committee Member; Jeannine Turner, Committee Member.
ContributorsNichols, Megan Adair (author), Canto, Angela I. (professor directing dissertation), Cripe, Juliann J. Woods, 1952- (university representative), Phillips, Beth M (committee member), Turner, Jeannine E (committee member), Florida State University (degree granting institution), College of Education (degree granting college), Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems (degree granting departmentdgg)
PublisherFlorida State University
Source SetsFlorida State University
LanguageEnglish, English
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeText, text, doctoral thesis
Format1 online resource (258 pages), computer, application/pdf

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