The psychological and physical health of fathers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder compared to fathers of children with long-term disabilities and fathers of children without disabilities Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The psychological and physical health of fathers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is under-researched. Due to the unique parenting demands, fathers of children with ASD may be at increased risk of experiencing psychological and physical health difficulties compared to fathers of children without disabilities (W/OD) and fathers of children with other long-term disabilities (LTD). What little research there is on fathers of children with ASD is often conducted on small clinical samples, or embeds the experiences of fathers within other groups.The current study aimed to explore the extent to which fathers of children with ASD experience psychological distress and physical health issues (e.g., general health, smoking, chronic pain) compared to fathers of children W/OD and fathers of children with a LTD.From a large, nationally representative sample of children, 159 fathers of children with ASD were identified, along with 45 fathers of children with a LTD and 6578 fathers of children W/OD.The majority of fathers were experiencing good psychological and physical health. Approximately 1 in 6 fathers of children with ASD were experiencing elevated levels of psychological distress and poor global health, and were at significantly greater risk than fathers of children W/OD; although these differences were not found compared to fathers of children with a LTD.Some fathers of children with ASD may require additional support which not only focuses on their psychological wellbeing but also fathers' physical health. The current findings encourage health services to check-in with, or reach-out to fathers as they too may require additional support.

publication date

  • 2017