The influence of gender on paternal involvement in the treatment process of a child or adolescent with an eating disorder

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O'Sullivan, Hazel
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University College Cork
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Aim: To identify factors that influence paternal engagement in the treatment process of a child or adolescent with an eating disorder. Background: Eating disorders are complex mental health issues and are exacerbated by a high mortality rate. Adolescence is the period of development when an eating disorder typically commences. International and national guidelines recommend the involvement of the family in the treatment process. However, barriers can exist on both an organisational and on an individual level. The family is an important source of support, yet there is a lack of research pertaining to the factors that facilitate or prevent fathers from participating in the treatment process. Method: A scoping review of the literature was undertaken to identify what key information existed within the current literature and research pertaining to the topic under examination. Thirteen studies were identified as pertinent to the research question posed. Following analysis, these studies identified the importance of parental involvement in the treatment process but pointed to fathers assuming a more peripheral role. Thus, to further understand the processes that contributed to paternal engagement this research sought to further examine the paternal role within the treatment process. It was determined that a qualitative descriptive approach would best suit the research aim. Data were obtained by conducting focus groups with a total of seven fathers agreeing to participate in two focus groups. Both focus groups were guided by a semi-structured interview guide. A qualitative content analysis approach was used to analyse the data regarding paternal experiences of engagement in the treatment process. Findings: Four themes were generated from the data. These were; fathers didn’t see this coming, no one place for one person to go alone, we are not as in touch with our children and the eating disorder as a mental illness. Conclusion: Fathers described themselves as on the periphery of the family, they identified themselves as experiencing things differently to mothers with a belief their role was to provide support to their wives and children within the treatment process. Impact: Healthcare providers need to be aware of the contribution of gendered roles within the family system, and the need to consider this when working with families within the treatment process.
Paternal involvement , Eating disorder , Child or adolescent , Treatment process
O'Sullivan, H. M. 2022. The influence of gender on paternal involvement in the treatment process of a child or adolescent with an eating disorder. MRes Thesis, University College Cork.
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