Hearing His Story: A Qualitative Study of Fathers of Pediatric Stroke Survivors

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Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
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qualitative study
pediatric stroke
children with special needs
coping strategies
Folkman and Lazarus
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Social Work
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Abstract Hearing His Story: A Qualitative Study of Fathers of Pediatric Stroke Survivors Stroke is seen as a condition that only happens within the elderly community; however, this is not accurate. Most people are unaware that infants, children, and young adults can and do suffer from strokes. According to various researchers, pediatric stroke affects 25 in 100,000 newborns and 12 in 100,000 children younger than 18 years of age. Most pediatric stroke survivors will be left with some physical, behavioral, and/or cognitive impairment. While child rearing has traditionally been viewed as the mother’s forte, many fathers wish to be involved in sharing the responsibility of raising their son or daughter. Fathers of children with disabilities are rarely researched. This qualitative study inquired into the experiences of fathers of pediatric stroke survivors including their reactions and ways of coping. In-depth interviews were conducted with 13 fathers whose children are part of the Pediatric Stroke Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Findings include the impact on the life of the fathers;; the fathers’ use of various support systems;; the need for the fathers to make meaning out of the devastating event; finding gratitude; and, the effect of their religious and/or spiritual beliefs in coping with their child’s stroke. Fathers also shared their advice for professionals who work with children with special needs and for other fathers facing a similar situation. Included is a discussion of how the significant findings of the study compared to previous research, theories, and the Stress, Appraisal, and Coping framework of Folkman and Lazarus. Some additional relevant theories are also evaluated in regards to understanding the reactions and coping abilities of the fathers. Clinical implications for working with fathers of children with special health care needs and/or disabilities, limitations of the study, and suggestions for needed research in the future are also presented.

Joretha Bourjolly, Ph.D.
Roberta Sands, Ph.D.
Robert Naseef, Ph.D.
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