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Journal Article (Other)
August 2017

Fathers of Adults who have a learning disability:roles, needs and concerns

Davys, D & Mitchell, D & Martin, R 2017, 'Fathers of Adults who have a learning disability:roles, needs and concerns ', British Journal of Learning Disabilities , 45, pp.266-273.


Background: Overall there is little research that specifically relates to the fathers of adults with a learning disability despite the social expectation that fathers will provide a supportive role over the lifespan.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with seven fathers of adults with a learning disability to explore their roles, needs and concerns.  Data was analysed using a framework associated with Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

Results: Themes arising demonstrate that fathers were shocked at the diagnosis of learning disability but usually adapted to the situation.  The impact of learning disability upon men’s lives, their perception of their adult child and the roles they assumed were varied.  Fathers valued support from wives and from grandparents, they valued knowledge and having interests and work type roles.  All fathers were concerned about the future yet comprehensive future planning was lacking. Some fathers reported difficulties in being emotionally open, and referred to societal stereotypes.  Fathers also valued positive support from service providers, however this relationship was often in conflict.


Conclusion: Although mothers are often the main carers for adults who have a learning disability, fathers can make a significant contribution.   The findings presented here support the results of previous studies regarding to paternal response to learning disability and its varied impact upon men’s lives.   Identified support strategies include leisure interests, volunteer/ work roles, having information and support from wives and grandparents.  Ongoing concerns incorporate the future and ambivalent relationships with service providers which could have a negative impact upon the individual who has a learning disability.  



SEEK Members

External Authors

Duncan Mitchell

Deborah Davys

Publication Details

Journal Name
British Journal of Learning Disabilities