Together for Short Lives
Call the Helpline 0808 8088 100

Fathers’ experiences of their child’s life-limiting condition: An attachment narrative perspective

Journal title
Clinical child psychology and psychiatry
Publication year
Bailey-Pearce, O.; Stedmon, J.; Dallos, R.; Davis, G.

When a child has a life-limiting illness, parental involvement is amplified, having to respond to the increased needs of the child. Both parents are affected by the illness, yet research has largely under-represented fathers’ experiences of their child’s illness. Seven fathers were interviewed about their experiences with their child’s life-limiting illness. In addition, fathers’ attachment strategies were assessed using the Adult Attachment Interview. Narrative analysis was implemented to explore the interviews, and indicators of attachment markers employed in the Adult Attachment Interview were also identified. The dominant themes were found to be ‘experience of the diagnosis’, ‘living with the illness’, ‘struggling with emotions’ and ‘relationship with staff’. Within each theme, there were differences which related to the father’s attachment strategies. This was particularly evident in parts of their narratives recounting critical moments of threat and anxiety in the course of discovering and adjusting to their child’s illness. Importantly, the findings also suggested that the experience for the fathers stressed, and in some cases disrupted, their attachment coping strategies. All fathers told stories of trying to get it right for their children and family. Their experiences of, and adjustment to, the illness were related to their attachment strategies. The clinical implications for health professionals are discussed.

Research abstracts