First Advisor

Julie Rosenzweig

Date of Publication

Fall 11-16-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Social Work and Social Research


Social Work and Social Research




Parents of children with disabilities, Fathers -- Employment, Fathers -- Services for, Fathers -- Psychology, Work-life balance, Work and family



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 162 pages)


Research about employed fathers of children with special health care needs (SHCN) is still limited, leaving fathers without the necessary workplace and community supports to better integrate work and life. Caregivers with exceptional caregiving responsibilities report greater levels of work-family conflict and considerable caregiver strain, as well as negative employment and financial consequences related to their caregiving responsibilities. These caregivers often struggle to access community supports such as childcare, after-school care, and support from friends and neighbors.

This study provides insights into the types of job, home, and community resources that are relevant for fathers of children with SHCN in order to better integrate work and family. The exploratory cross-sectional design employed an online survey to collect the data, with 122 fathers meeting the study criteria of living at least part-time with a child with SHCN under the age of 18 and being employed at least part-time. The fathers had a mean age of 42 and most of them identified as Non-Hispanic White. The majority stated holding a college degree and over 90% reported being married or partnered. Fathers indicated having on average two children and Autism Spectrum Disorder was the most cited diagnosis for the child with SHCN. Regression analyses were conducted to analyze the study's research questions. Access and use of workplace flexibility were significant job resource measures predicting difficulty combining work and family, and spillover. Family flexibility to handle work issues was a significant predictor across all dimensions of positive and negative spillover. The availability of community services was found significantly related to negative family to work spillover and support from friends/neighbors was a significant predictor for both difficulty combining work and family, and spillover. Regression analyses with interaction terms of job and home resources showed buffering effects of resource ecologies on spillover.

The study's findings illustrate that, fathers of children with SHCN struggle to integrate work and family even if they are not considered primary caregivers. Community, home, and job resources were salient for these fathers to mitigate a lack of resources across ecologies. This lack of resources tended to reinforce traditional gender norms for both mother and father. Resources within and across the three different ecologies were found to have direct and compensatory effects. Community resources were identified as the most important resources for both positive and negative spillover. The study also highlights the positive spillover effects related to employment and family care for fathers of children with SHCN. Organizations are called to reduce flexibility stigma and decrease barriers to using workplace flexibility to improve work-life fit for fathers caring for children with SHCN. Social services like childcare, or after school care, and social support are of critical relevance and need to better support these fathers and families. Considerations for future research are presented.


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