Fathers of offspring with severe mental illness: key factors related to fathers' participation in caregiving
Despite an abundance of research studies on family caregiving and mental health, the focus has been almost exclusively on the caregivng role of mothers, ascribing this responsibility inherently to women. Resent research findings have shown that mental illness occurs initially in a familial context, given the age of the first onset of the disease. How families manage mental illness is critical not only for recovery, but also for family’s well-being. Fathers can play a significant role in the family to enhance the family’s emotional, functional, and marital (or relationship) balance. The purpose of this study is on creating new knowledge that can be applied towards increasing the involvement of fathers of offspring with severe mental illness in caregivng roles. A sample of 104 fathers was purposively sampled from mental health organizations in Austin, TX, related conferences, and the Internet. The primary aims of this study are: (1) thoroughly review the recent and historical research literature to identify key factors that have an influence on active paternal nurture; (2) conceptualize a theoretical frame of reference that will increase our understanding of paternal caregiving; (3) identify and assess the instruments in the literature to measure key factors related to paternal caregiving involvement; and (4) identify and test a number of hypotheses that stem from the previous research. Using hierarchical multiple regression, the impact of individualist and microstructural factors on the outcome of paternal involvement in caregiving was examined and discussed. The most important factor in predicting fathers’ caregiving behavior is fathers’ internalized sex-role orientation. High degree of masculine identity that defines nurture and care as feminine and unmanly seems to pose the greatest barrier for nurturing fatherhood. Other important predictors for active paternal nurture included paternal adjustment, socioeconomic status, marital satisfaction, and the male gender of offspring with mental illness. To produce more nurturing fathers, this study recommends social work interventions at both individual and social level. More balanced caregiving role allocation between mothers and fathers will reduce burden, stress, and depression of both parents and may promote happiness of the family that is caring for a member with severe mental illness.