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Fathers’ Reflections on Parenting Young Children With Type 1 Diabetes

Sullivan-Bolyai, Susan DNSc, CNS, RN; Rosenberg, Rachel; Bayard, Micaela

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: January-February 2006 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - p 24-31
Feature articles

PURPOSE: To describe fathers’ experiences in parenting and managing the care of their young children with type 1 diabetes.

DESIGN AND METHODS: This qualitative descriptive study used 16 open-ended, in-depth interviews with 14 purposively selected, involved, educated, stably employed fathers of 15 children younger than 10 years old. The fathers were asked to describe their perspective of the initial diagnosis, how they learned diabetes care, their day-to-day care and parenting experiences, and what strategies they used in the day-to-day management. Data were managed using NVivo software and analyzed using principles of naturalistic inquiry and qualitative content analysis.

RESULTS: The overarching theme was “From sadness to action,” with six categories emerging: (1) “shock and awe” (after diagnosis), (2) quick response to the diagnosis and learning diabetes care: “suck it up and do it,” (3) “staying in the loop” (practicing the skills, tasks, and responsibilities of diabetes management), (4) “partnerships in care” (tag teaming or co-parenting), (5) active participation (being actively involved in their children’s day-to-day care and benefiting from participating in this care), and (6) mantra for living with diabetes: child first, diabetes second.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Nurses working with children with diabetes can use the results of this study to better understand the role of fathers in the care of these children. Fathers underscored the importance of practicing diabetes care-related tasks to improve their confidence when caring for children alone. Their practical and philosophical strategies for managing their children’s chronic illness have recently been incorporated into a parent mentor intervention for children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

The diagnosis of diabetes requires a great deal of parental involvement. How do fathers respond to this challenge?

Susan Sullivan-Bolyai is an Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts Worcester, Graduate School of Nursing, Worcester, MA. She can be reached via e-mail at

Rachel Rosenberg and Micaela Bayard are Research Assistants, University of Massachusetts Worcester, Graduate School of Nursing, Worcester, MA.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.