Blending Traditional and Nurturing Fathering: Fathers of Children With Autism Managing Work and Family

Year Published
Author (Individual)
Lien, K., Lashewicz, B., Mitchell, J. & Boettcher, N.
Resource Type
Journal Article
Resource Format
Resource Language

Against a backdrop of hegemonic masculinity, this study contributes to understandings of how having a child with autism impacts fathers' navigation of work and family responsibilities. Parents of children with autism face distinct needs related to accessing health, education, and social supports for their children. In supporting their children, fathers may feel pulled between traditional financial provider roles and relatively nurturing, involved styles of fathering. Using a traditional masculinity theoretical orientation, this study conducted a directed content analysis of narrative data from 26 fathers of children with autism collected as part of a broader project. We analyzed approaches to fathering reflected in fathers' descriptions of managing work and family and corresponding meanings fathers attached to work relative to family responsibilities.

Fathering approaches included (a) traditional breadwinners, (b) caregiving breadwinners, (c) “tag‐team” parents, and (d) caregiving fathers. Meanings of work included (a) financial power and security in the face of autism; (b) work as information, support, and reprieve; and (c) work strain contributing to guilt, sadness, and depression. This study showed that fathers' responsibilities entailed a careful balancing between financial provision and caregiving for their children with autism. Theoretical and policy implications identified aimed at more fully understanding and supporting fathers of children with autism.

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