Detached, distraught or discerning? Fathers of adolescents with chronic illness: a review of the literature

Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2013;25(2):109-17. doi: 10.1515/ijamh-2013-0018.


Parenting a child with chronic disease provides a unique set of challenges for both mothers and fathers throughout all phases of the illness. However, fathers of these children are under-represented in existing research. This review focuses on the fathers of children with chronic disease included in 44 original articles. We address the challenges to the father's role as breadwinner, leader and strength-giver in the family. Three time-periods describe the obstacles fathers tackle when parenting children with chronic disease: a) diagnosis and short-term, characterized by distress, isolation and uncertainty; b) the mastery period, characterized by the struggle to establish routine and by support and spirituality; and c) the long-term, characterized by relationship and personality change, worries and bereavement. Overall, whilst current research has revealed some key themes pertaining to fathers of children with chronic disease, further studies are required to foster the development of support mechanisms for the specific needs of these fathers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Father-Child Relations*
  • Humans
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Paternal Behavior*
  • Social Support