All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Mieke B Thomeer McBride

Advisory Committee Members

Cindy L Cain

Heith Copes

Scott Snyder

David F Warner

Fred J Biasini

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2021

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

This dissertation explored the relationships between fathers and their co-residential adult children who have been diagnosed with an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). This research addressed 1) the ways fathers understand their involvement in the lives of their adult child with developmental disabilities, especially as it relates to their masculinity; 2) how fathers perceive that their experiences fathering their child have impacted their health and health behaviors, including how masculinity plays a part; and 3) what supports fathers stated they have utilized and recommend, along with what challenges and constraints fathers feel they have faced. My analysis of in-depth interviews with fifteen fathers was situated within three theoretical perspectives: life course, caring and traditional masculinity, and disability frameworks. Interviews were analyzed via an abductive research strategy, with results reflecting the perspectives of the fathers themselves.Results from this study indicated that fathers expressed care and showed involvement with their adult child with an IDD through making sure their child is engaged in programming or activities, is continuing to gain skills toward independence, and by securing a financially stable future for them. Fathers depended on a more traditional family structuring, with their wives as a source of support, so as to enact their role of provider through their employment, and in order to achieve a perceived overall sense of good health and well-being. Trying to fit fathers into mutually exclusive categories was difficult because fatherhood is not just made up of one definition or one point in time. Regardless of how fatherhood may have changed in more recent times, expectations remain tying fatherhood to traditional gender divisions of labor, thus reinforcing a traditional enacting of masculinity. Based on this study, the healthiest way to be a father is to be involved in the life of their adult child and to seek out and utilize supports and resources. Fathers and their adult child with an IDD are living longer, creating more opportunities for engagement and interaction. This dissertation calls for future research integrating how fathers can incorporate caring into their masculine identities in healthy ways for promoting overall well-being.

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