Indexed on: 01 Jul '08Published on: 01 Jul '08Published in: Psychology & health
Despite increased research into families of chronically ill children, more needs to be known about the father's experience. We address this issue through asking: 'What is it like to be the father of a child with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?' (JIA). Four members of eight families with an adolescent diagnosed with JIA, including seven fathers, were interviewed and transcripts analysed using grounded theory. This study suggests that fathers of children with JIA experience several severe losses which are exacerbated through comparisons they make between their own situation and that of fathers of healthy children. In addition, the fathers faced several constraints which reduced their opportunities to communicate with their ill child through shared activities. Fathers appeared to conceal their distress by adopting strategies of denial and distraction however their adjustment was facilitated, to some extent, by social support. They could also develop greater acceptance of their situation over time as the care of their ill child became assimilated into family life and constraints upon their life gradually reduced through the increased maturity of their son or daughter with JIA. These findings have implications for healthcare professionals and voluntary organisations.