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Open Access Research article

Fatherhood and children with complex healthcare needs: qualitative study of fathering, caring and parenting

Lucie Hobson1* and Jane Noyes2

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Social Care and Health Research Clinical Research Centre North Wales Research Network, UK

2 Centre for Health-Related Research, Bangor University, UK

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BMC Nursing 2011, 10:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-10-5

Published: 15 April 2011



Fathers are increasingly providing substantial amounts of technical and nursing care to growing numbers of children with complex healthcare needs. This exploratory study reports some of the first in-depth evidence of fathers' experiences and presents a research agenda in this critically under-researched area.


We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with 8 fathers who provided a substantial amount of complex technical and nursing care for their child at home. The aim was to describe their experiences of fathering, parenting and caring. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using Burnard's approach, which has commonalities with phenomenological and content analysis.

Results and Discussion

Fathers enjoyed their caring role and found it rewarding and at times stressful. They instituted structured regimes, which focused on the father/child/family. Performing intimate care posed specific challenges for which there is no guidance. Children's community nursing was highly valued. Fathers generally rejected the need for specific father-focussed services, as such provision would induce guilt feelings. Fathers reported positive relationships with their children and partners.


Key areas for future exploration include gaining a better understanding of fathers' motivations and styles of caring, developing interventions to support fathers' caring role, developing guidance on intimate care, and delivering tailored services to fathers in a family context. There is little understanding of fathering and caring by non-resident, teenage and step-fathers. Finally, knowing more about resilience and coping of fathers in strong relationships with partners and children may help inform interventions to support fathers who do not feel able to stay with their family.

Disabled children; complex continuing nursing care; fathers; community nursing; qualitative