Research Clusters

Fathers of Children with Special Needs

Led by Dr. Ted McNeill, Director of Social Work and Child Life, at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Focus: to understand how fathers of children with special needs develop their fathering roles and identities within the context of the couple relationship.

Published Articles Related to This Project

McNeill, T., Nicholas, D., Beaton, J., Montgomery, G., MacCulloch, R., Gearing, R., & Selkirk, E. (2014). The Coconstruction of Couples’ Roles in Parenting Children With a Chronic Health Condition. Qualitative health research, 1049732314540339.(Online publication in advance of print.) 

Beaton, J., Nicholas, D., McNeill, T., and Wenger, L. The Experiences of Fathers of a Child with a Chronic Health Condition: Caregiving Experiences and Potential Support Interventions. (2012) In Ball, J., & Daly, K. J. (Eds.). Father Involvement in Canada: Diversity, Renewal, and Transformation (pp. 190-206). Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

McNeill, T. (2007). Fathers of Children with a Chronic Health Condition Beyond Gender Stereotypes. Men and Masculinities, 9(4), 409-424. 

Project Description

It is very difficult to understand fathers and their roles in families without taking into account the roles that mothers play in families and the ways in which mothers and fathers influence each other's involvement.

This cluster draws on family systems theory and social constructionism to shed light on the ways that fathers of children with selected chronic health conditions (cerebral palsy, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and spina bifida) co-construct their parenting roles and involvement relating to the care of the child with their partners. This knowledge will contribute to the improvement of family-centred care practices with respect to supporting fathers.

This study is using a grounded theory methodology, which to date has included 18 couple interviews with fathers and mothers/co-parents together, and 6 interviews with individual fathers and mothers/partners. Interviews explored various factors that affect father involvement and parenting partnership including factors related to the child's health condition, characteristics of the parents, family functioning (parent/child relationships, couple relationship and social/structural factors such as work, friends and social support).

The Partnership

Research partners include: The Hospital for Sick Children (Dr. McNeill and David Nicholas PhD, Academic and Clinical Specialist in Social Work) Bloorview MacMillan Children's Centre (Gert Montgomery, Professional Practice Leader for Social Work and Chaplaincy) and the University of Guelph (Dr. John Beaton, Assistant Professor).

Knowledge transfer partners are well-positioned to influence clinical practice, educational curricula, and institutional policy development:

Centre for Excellence for Children and Adolescents with Special Needs, the Ontario Association of Children's Rehabilitation Services, the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres, CanChild, and the Research Alliance for Children with Special Needs. Dr. McNeill will supervise students.

Executive Summary (Father Involvement Community Research Forum Spring 2006 - Early Results)
Authored by Ted McNeil. A summary of research into factors relating to parenting by fathers of children with special needs. Summary includes an overview of preliminary findings regarding how fathers and their partner co-construct their roles and identities, as well as other contextual variables that shape a father’s role.


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