Type of Document Dissertation Author Strachan, Jr., John Weir URN etd-07112005-161315 Title Fathers of Children with Educational Disabilities: The Role of Stress in Life Satisfaction Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Family and Child Sciences, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Carol Anderson Darling Committee Member Gary Peterson Committee Member Marsha Rehm Committee Member Nick Mazza Committee Member Keywords
- special needs
- life satisfaction
Date of Defense 2005-06-21 Availability unrestricted AbstractInvestigating the possible complex role of paternal stress in life satisfaction is essential because of the increasing importance of the role of fathers in our society. There are many difficulties and demands that face not only fathers of typically developing children, but also disabled children in particular. That fathers of children with disabilities encounter possible unique challenges profoundly affecting levels of stress and family adaptation is a phenomenon which has warranted further study. To date little is known concerning the effects of fathers having a child with a disability since previous research has focused predominantly on mothers or siblings. Therefore, in this study, fathers with non-disabled children and fathers with disabled children were compared with regard to their stresses, coping, and life satisfaction.
In utilizing predominantly Family Stress Theory and Family Resiliency Theory, the purpose of this study was to examine the influence of family life changes (major and minor life events), level of family and individual coping, and parenting and health stress upon life satisfaction for fathers having children with educational disabilities and fathers having children without educational disabilities over the last twelve months. A survey research design was employed that utilized a total sample of 212 fathers from a county school system in Western Kentucky. Of the 212 fathers, 127 reported having a child without educational disabilities and 85 reported having a child with educational disabilities. Research instruments included the Family Inventory of Life Events and Changes, Parenting Daily Hassles scale, Family Crisis Oriented Personal Evaluation Scales, Coping Scales for Adults, Parenting Stress Index, Family Health Status Inventory, and Satisfaction With Life Scale.
Various statistical analyses were utilized to examine the data. Analysis of variance was conducted to test differences between the two father groups. In addition, a confirmatory factor analysis was utilized to determine if the proposed indicators in the study were valid measures of the latent constructs. A path analysis was also employed to examine the relationships among the variables.
The findings indicated that there were differences between the two groups. Fathers of disabled children experienced greater levels of family stress, more occurrences of parenting daily hassles, greater degree of difficulty related to parenting daily hassles, less variety and number of family resources, less individual sharing of problems, more emotional and physical health symptoms, greater parenting stress, and less overall satisfaction with life. There were no differences found between the two groups of fathers on level of individual coping pertaining to dealing with problems, non-productive coping, and optimism.
Results of the confirmatory factor analysis determined that the variables parenting stress, non-productive coping, and sharing did not adequately measure the latent constructs in the restricted model for both father groups and were therefore subsequently removed. For the saturated model, the variable family events had the greatest total effects for the fathers with disabled children group whereas level of stress had the greatest total effects in the fathers with non-disabled children group. Moreover, saturated path analysis indicated that for fathers with non-disabled children, level of stress and level of coping were predictive of life satisfaction. However, for the fathers with disabled children, level of stress alone was predictive of life satisfaction. The percentage of variance explained in the model for fathers with disabled children was higher (74%) than in the fathers with non-disabled children (52%).
The findings confirmed the appropriateness of using Family Stress Theory when examining stress and coping dimensions in fathers with disabled school-age children. Implications for theory, future research, and professional practice were discussed based on the results of this study. Continued research should focus on developing programs specifically designed to assist fathers with the unique challenges of parenting children with disabilities. Community professionals and educators should be aware of how different cultures and value systems may influence coping for fathers of school-age children. For fathers of disabled children, the findings highlighted the notion of chronic loss and sorrow, as well as grief-related reactions pertaining to their children. Another contribution that surfaced from this study was the idea of emotional turmoil experienced by fathers in the rearing of their disabled children.
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