Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Joy E. Wachs

Committee Members

Judy McCook, Sadie P. Hutson, Will Dalton


The parenting experience is as diverse as the children parented. Each child has diverse personality traits requiring flexibility and specificity in parenting strategy. This need for flexibility and specificity is more complex when one or more children within a family has an intellectual disability. Although research in this area is abundant, investigators have historically focused on mothers' attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to represent the entire family (Essex, Seltzer, & Krauss, 2001; Greenberg, 2002) rather than focusing on fathers and their caregiving relationships with their children in need of malleable but consistent parenting. Using a qualitative descriptive design, this qualitative study explored expectations and subsequent experiences of men who have fathered children with and without intellectual disabilities. The investigator collected data through face-to-face semistructured interviews with 8 fathers in Tennessee. During these interviews fathers discussed each of their children, specifically their expectations of and experiences with their children prior to birth, reactions to the differences among their children, getting through the day, and their responsibilities in teaching each child. NVivo 9.0 data management software was used. Four main themes were inductively derived from the data: Learning to Dance in the Rain, Just Do What Needs Doing, The Power of Patience, and Nurturing Uniqueness. These themes contribute to nursing knowledge by delineating the perspectives of men as they father children of differing intelligences. The results from this study suggest strategies for educators and practicing healthcare professionals working with fathers in similar situations to increase mindfulness of this all-important relationship between fathers and their children with differing intellectual capacities; the investigator also proposes areas of continued research in this field.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Nursing Commons