Fathering for Eternity: Generative Spirituality in Latter-Day Saint Fathers of Children with Special Needs


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, religion, fathering, families, disability, special needs


This article presents the narratives of personal experiences of 35 Latter-day Saint fathers of children with special needs and discusses how their religious beliefs and practices have influenced the meaning of those experiences. The narratives provide a window on how one group of highly religious fathers makes sense of having children with disabilities or chronic illnesses. For these fathers, belief in a divine plan that includes both mortal and eternal life created a coherent sense of meaning despite disability and death. That plan involved continuation of family relationships beyond death. The fathers' belief in this divine plan created an expectation of an eternal relationship with their children free from the limitations of illness or disability experienced in this life. These fathers' beliefs and expectations inspired them to make and keep a commitment to a sacred responsibility of loving, serving, and caring for their children with special needs. These fathers' experiences are also interpreted in light of a generative theory of fathering and faith and in terms of Kenneth Pargament's (1997) theory about conservation and transformation of sacred significance in religious coping and adaptation.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C. (2003). Fathering for eternity: Generative spirituality in Latter-day Saint fathers of children with special needs. Review of Religious Research, 44, 237-251.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Review of Religious Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor