Involved Fathering of Children with Special Needs: Relationships and Religion as Resources


fathering, special-needs child, disability, religion, qualitative study, resources


This research presents a qualitative study of six fathers of children with various special needs. In-depth interviews were used to examine these fathers' experiences in meeting the needs of their child(ren). Upon diagnosis or learning of their child's special need, the fathers in this study experienced a range of thoughts and emotions, ranging from uncertainty and questioning to a feeling of instant love and acceptance for the child. Following this initial response, fathers' experiences seemed to revolve around their religious beliefs and practices and relational resources in meeting the challenges and demands they faced. As these fathers made meaning emerging from the interplay of available resources and the demands facing them, each chose to strive to connect with and care for his child. Fathers reported feeling as though they had undergone important changes as a result of their experience fathering their children. Some of these reported changes included increased empathy, patience, tenderness, and humility. Implications for clinical practice with fathers are suggested.

Original Publication Citation

Olson, M. M., Dollahite, D. C., & White, M. B. (2002). Involved fathering of children with special needs: Relationships and religion as resources. Journal of Religion, Disability, & Health, 6, 47-73.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Religion, Disability & Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor