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06-06-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2016

The Involvement of Fathers in Supporting a Young Person Living with Mental Illness

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2016
Christine West, Anne Honey


Fathers are critical in the lives of young people, including those living with mental illness. Fathers’ support may be different to that of mothers and is likely to influence the well-being of other family members. However, fathers’ support is often seen as “secondary” and little is known about the nature, diversity and impact of their involvement. This paper explores the parts played by fathers in supporting a young person (15–21 years old) living with mental illness. A modified grounded theory approach was used to perform a secondary analysis of data from in-depth interviews with 32 participants from 14 families: 13 young people, 13 mothers; and 6 fathers. Participants’ descriptions of fathers’ involvement varied along five dimensions, being the extent to which fathers: directly supported the young person; supported the mother; aligned with the mother; took responsibility for supporting the young person; and needed input from the mother. From comparison of data relating to each dimension across families, four distinct models of perceived father involvement are proposed. These are represented by transport metaphors: co-pilots; captain/first-mate; gondolier; and separate drivers. Father involvement was seen as having an impact on both young people directly and mothers’ abilities to support young people. The findings are preliminary given the exploratory nature of the study, but nevertheless highlight the need for helping professionals and researchers to attend to father involvement to facilitate optimum parent support for young people living with mental illness.

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