Exploring the Experiences of Fathers Raising Sons with Asperger Syndrome: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Prof Doc Thesis

Axup, Tina E. J. 2012. Exploring the Experiences of Fathers Raising Sons with Asperger Syndrome: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.1791
AuthorsAxup, Tina E. J.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

My study explores the life-worlds of fathers who are raising a son diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. It was inspired by previous research where I considered the emotional journeys of parents and the support offered for parenting this group of children (Axup, 2003). Mothers were more accessible and willing to take part than fathers. Findings suggested that fathers had a very different experience from mothers and were rarely heard. This study seeks to uncover this group of fathers‟ specific needs and recognises they have an important story to tell. Exploring fathers‟ stories could aid both understanding and support offered, whilst giving them a voice. Fathers‟ journeys suggested cyclical patterns, where events and transitions surrounding their sons triggered feelings of denial, guilt, worry, frustration, hope and fear (Roll-Pettersson, 2001). I took a relativist epistemological stance, whereby multiple realities are assumed and social construct, interpretivism and the concept of phenomena are important in uncovering how participants make sense of their experience (Smith, Flowers and Larkin, 2009). The methodology I selected was Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Nine fathers took part in individual semi-structured interviews where I explored their experiences of raising a son with Asperger Syndrome. I analysed my data case by case and identified six main themes. These revolved around different aspects of selfhood which featured within the fathers‟ stories: Self through time, the importance of identity, relating to the syndrome, position within the family dynamic, their place in the world, and the practice of parenting. I also explored core values and beliefs in relation to fatherhood and their sons‟ difficulties.
My findings revealed the significance of the phenomena of being a father raising a son with Asperger Syndrome pervading all aspects of their lives. All had a great deal to say, yet some had never been heard by family, friends or professionals. Although a small-scale study, the narratives are supported by literature which suggested that fathers are frequently isolated by their families and professionals (Page, Whitting and Mclean, 2008). Research implications for
Educational Psychologists and wider children‟s service professionals suggested pro-active work is needed to help fathers engage with their sons and services. Fathers felt a caseworker whom they could trust would help them make sense of bureaucratic systems and provide support from the early years, during diagnosis and transition periods into adolescence and adulthood.

KeywordsAsperger Syndrome; Fathers Raising Sons
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.1791
Publication dates
PrintJul 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Mar 2013
Publisher's version
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