Understanding and supporting the psychological wellbeing of fathers of children with Intellectual Disability (ID)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: CEDAR


This fellowship focuses on the wellbeing of parents of children with an Intellectual Disability (ID) (commonly known as a learning disability) in the UK. Individuals with a learning disability will have reduced intellectual ability, take longer to learn new things, and will require additional support according to their level of disability (mild-moderate, severe-profound) for the whole of their life. Individuals with ID can also have other specific conditions such as autism or Down's syndrome.

Having a disability is not just experienced by the individual but those who care for and about the person with a disability. Despite this, research has not always considered the impact on families from a systems perspective, which means considering the child within the context of their family and exploring the impact that raising a child with ID can have on family units and members. This fellowship looks to build on my PhD work to develop a better understanding of families of children with ID, know more about their experiences, and contribute evidence which can be used to support them in the future. Therefore, a key aim will be to write-up some of my doctoral research to extend knowledge in the academic community and share findings with parents of children with ID and professionals who support them in order to improve their lives.

The activities proposed in the fellowship will focus specifically on the outcomes of fathers with ID because we know little about their perspectives and experiences. Typically, when researchers have asked families to take part in research, it is mothers that respond and take part in answering questions about themselves, their child, and their family and so research evidence is often focused on mothers. This new project will consult with fathers of children with ID to share my findings and existing research and to gain their experiences in order to create a booklet with fathers, for other fathers. The aim of this work is to recognise fathers of children with ID, collaborate with them to better understand their needs, and to share information with others.

The third aim of the fellowship is to conduct some new research on fathers of children with ID using some existing large-scale data. This new study will focus on fathers of children with ID, looking at the role of father wellbeing and parenting on the long-term outcomes of their children. The research will test a theory called the Family Stress Model (Conger & Donellan, 2007) which proposes that early family adversity (such as poverty) affects child development by reducing the wellbeing of parents, which then in turn increases the likelihood of negative parenting. This model has never been tested with fathers of children with ID and so will be a unique piece of research.


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