Abstract: Fathers Caring for Children with Special Health Care Needs: Implications of Job, Family, and Community Resource Ecologies (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

233P Fathers Caring for Children with Special Health Care Needs: Implications of Job, Family, and Community Resource Ecologies

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Claudia Sellmaier, PhD, Lecturer, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA
Background and Purpose

            Research about working fathers who care for a child with special health care needs (SHCN) is limited. Research demonstrates the importance of job, family, and community resources to successfully integrate work and care responsibilities. Achieving this match between resources and demands or life course fitis based on the complex interplay of resources and demands available to families within job, family, and community ecologies. The current research adds to this existing conceptualization of life-course fit in the specific context of working fathers caring for children with SHCN.


           Data was collected from 122 employed fathers who cared for a child with SHCN through a nationally distributed online survey. Fathers were on average 42 years old (SD = 7.76), the majority were married, and identified as Non-Hispanic White. Over half reported a household income between $60,000 and $119,000. Fathers had on average 2 children with one of them having a SHCN. Job, family, and community indices were developed to capture the concept of resource ecologies. The job index included access/use of flexibility, and supportive supervisors/coworkers. Family resources included partner’s employment status, family flexibility, and shared responsibilities. Community resources referred to service availability and support from friends/neighbors. Life course fit was measured using a one-item question assessing difficulty to combine work and family responsibilities and the positive and negative work-to-family and family-to-work spillover scales. Regression analysis was employed to assess the impact of job, family, and community resource ecologies on fathers’ life course fit including an assessment of moderating relationships.


            Job, family, and community resource ecologies were all significant predictors of difficulty combining work and family. Job resources were a significant predictor of positive work to family spillover. Home and community resource ecologies were significant predictors of both positive and negative family to work spillover. Community resources were a significant predictor of negative work to family spillover. There was a significant interaction between job and home resource ecologies on positive work to family spillover, and a non-significant trend level interaction between community and family resource ecologies on negative family to work spillover.

Conclusion and Implications

            Fathers experience difficulty combining work and family even if they are not primarily responsible for child care. Research should investigate the needs of fathers and other non-primary care providers of children with SHCN. Fathers are using all three resource ecologies to achieve fit. Practice and policy recommendations need to consider this complexity when developing solutions. For example, paid family medical leave needs to be conceptualized as embedded within a web of resources and demands and therefore can only be part of a larger solution. The findings demonstrate that resources in a variety of ecologies are being fitted like puzzle pieces to reduce negative spillover and increase positive spillover. Service providers should step outside narrow service silos to support families in all three areas.