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Reported social support seeking behaviour of fathers of elementary school aged children diagnosed with.. 1988

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REPORTED SOCIAL SUPPORT SEEKING BEHAVIOUR OF FATHERS OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGED CHILDREN DIAGNOSED WITH LEARNING DIFFICULTIES By . Celia A n n Lewis B . Sc. (Nursing), University of British Columbia, 1966 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS .FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 1988 © Celia A n n Lewis, 1988 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. 1 further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of COUNSELLING PSYCHOLOGY The University of British Columbia 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Y3 Date September 11, 1988 DE-6(3/81) Abstract Using Q-technique, 15 fathers of children diagnosed with severe learning disabilities, sorted 41 statements concerning use of their potential formal and informal social network members. Additional demographic and descriptive data, and scores from the Perceived Social Support scales (Family, Friends), were used to analyze the possible effects of a number of variables on fathers' sorting patterns. Fathers reported their spouse as their primary source of support/information, and child's immediate school personnel as their secondary resource. Subdividing fathers into perceived-High and perceived-Low support groups indicated that the Low subgroup reported their spouse as their most significant social contact; also, that contacting School Board personnel was a somewhat more usual behaviour than for the High subgroup. As spousal support was clearly primary, fathers were also subgrouped according to their wives' employment, and thus their availability for support. Comparisons indicated fathers with working wives were more likely to report going to their informal intimate network (family, friends, spouse's family) and, to be notably more active in contacting various school personnel involved in their children's school difficulties. Fathers with at- home wives appeared to follow more traditional patterns of social interactions, with less school contact behaviour reported. Fathers differed on several demographics when subgrouped according to whether their target child was first-born, or subsequent-born (2nd or 3rd). First-born children were younger, were more likely to be enrolled in regular classes at present, and their mothers were more likely to be working. Additional data showed that 14 of the 15 target children were boys, and that the families had predominantly male children in total (28 of 32), an ii unexpected finding. Future research directions are discussed. In order to utilize fathers in the children's educational programme, suggestions axe pointed out for various school personnel, from the home room teacher to school board administrators. ni Table of Contents Abstract ii List of Tables ix Acknowledgement x 1 INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 1 1.1 Social Interactions . . . 1 1.1.1 Theoretical background 1 1.1.2 Fathers and social networks . . . . . 4 1.1.3 Instrumental role of fathers 6 1.1.4 Impact of a 'hidden handicap' . . 6 1.2 Research Questions 8 1.3 Hypotheses 9 1.4 Definition of Terms 10 1.4.1 Fathers 10 1.4.2 Teaching & Evaluation Centres 11 1.4.3 Learning Disability 11 1.4.4 Diagnosis 12 1.4.5 Target Child . . . 13 1.4.6 Stressors 13 iv 1.4.7 Social Networks 14 1.4.8 Social Ecology 14 1.4.9 Social Support 15 1.4.10 Stressor-specificity fit 15 1.5 Focus of Study 16 2 REVIEW of the LITERATURE 17 2.1 Social Support 17 2.1.1 Stressors 20 2.2 Social Support Networks 24 2.2.1 Characteristics of friendship networks 27 2.3 Gender Differences . . 29 2.3.1 Spousal Support 31 2.4 The 'Normal' Family 33 2.5 Fathering and the Experience of Fatherhood 37 2.5.1 Historical Background 37 2.5.2 Father as socialization agent 38 2.5.3 Father-absence 41 2.5.4 Fathering across cultures 42 2.6 Families and Stress Responses 43 2.6.1 Parental Response Patterns 44 2.7 Adaptive Coping to Stress 48 2.7.1 Components of the coping process 49 2.7.2 Resources 50 2.8 Summary 54 v 3 METHODOLOGY 55 3.1 Purpose of study 55 3.1.1 Background 55 3.2 Research Procedures 56 3.2.1 Selection of Subjects 56 3.2.2 Criteria for Selection of Fathers 56 3.2.3 Procedures 57 3.3 Significance of the Problem 58 3.4 Basic Research Design 59 3.4.1 Background 59 3.4.2 Demographic Information 59 3.4.3 Perceived Social Support Scales 60 3.4.4 Q-Sort 63 3.4.5 Explanation of Q-Technique 63 3.4.6 Purpose of Q-sort Selection 65 4 RESULTS and DISCUSSION 67 4.1 Subject Characteristics 67 4.1.1 Fathers 67 4.1.2 Target child " , 67 4.1.3 Placement information 69 4.1.4 Fathers' understanding of child's difficulties 70 4.2 Summary of Subject Characteristics 73 4.3 Perceived Social Support Scales Results 74 4.3.1 Comparison of PSS scores vs. Q-sorting results . 75 4.4 Q-sort Categories 76 vi 4.4.1 'Most like' behaviour: Significant Q-sort choices 78 4.4.2 Irregular 'most like' behaviours 80 4.4.3 'Least like' behaviour: Significant Q-sort choices 85 4.4.4 Irregular 'least like' behaviours 86 4.4.5 Passive category 88 4.4.6 Expert(s) category 90 4.4.7 Total formal network category 92 4.5 Behaviour Choices: Fathers' Subgroupings 95 4.5.1 Subgroup by variable: High, Low perceived support 95 4.5.2 Subgroup by variable: Working wives 100 4.5.3 Subgroup by variable: Child's birth position 102 4.5.4 Subgroup by variable: Child's age 104 4.5.5 Subgroup by variable: Interval time 105 4.6 Variability in Q-sorting of Statements 107 4.6.1 Least variability ' 108 4.6.2 Minimal variability 109 4.6.3 Greatest variability 112 4.7 Q-sort Item Volatility: Comparison Across Subgroups of Fathers 114 4.7.1 Perceived Support: High, Low 114 4.7.2 Working/Nonworking Wives 115 4.7.3 Target child's birth position 117 4.7.4 Target child's age 118 4.7.5 Placement lag time 119 4.8 Summary of Variability 121 4.8.1 Additional Q-sort process information 124 vii 5 R E S E A R C H a n d C O U N S E L L I N G I M P L I C A T I O N S 127 5.1 Limitations of Study 127 5.2 Suggested Future Research 129 5.3 Implications for Educational System 135 5.3.1 Implications for Counsellors 137 5.4 Summary 138 B i b l i o g r a p h y 139 A p p e n d i c e s 157 A C o v e r L e t t e r f r o m H e a d Teache rs 157 B C o n t a c t L e t t e r f r o m R e s e a r c h e r 158 C P a r e n t P a r t i c i p a t i o n C o n s e n t F o r m 159 D D e m o g r a p h i c I n f o r m a t i o n 160 E P e r c e i v e d S o c i a l S u p p o r t f r o m F a m i l y 161 F P e r c e i v e d S o c i a l S u p p o r t f r o m F r i e n d s 162 G I n s t r u c t i o n s for Q - S O R T , w i t h I n t r o d u c t i o n 163 H Q - S o r t S ta temen ts 167 I Q - s o r t F o r m a t 171 J R a n k o r d e r of Q - s p r t s t a t e m e n t s , a l l s u b g r o u p s o f fa thers 172 K Q - A n a l y s i s D a t a 174 viii L i s t o f T a b l e s 4.1 Contrasting Correlations 75 4.2 Q-sort Categories; Subgroups of Fathers 77 4.3 Significant results: "... most like my usual behaviour is to . . . " 78 4.4 Significant results: "... least like my usual behaviour is to . . . " 86 4.5 Comparison of salient items: High, Low support fathers 99 4.6 Category comparisons re 'Working wives' variable 101 4.7 Comparisons re variable: Child's birth position 102 4.8 Comparisons re variable: Child's age 104 4.9 Comparisons re variable: Interval time period 106 4.10 Consensual Q-sort statements 110 4.11 Greatest item variability 112 4.12 Item volatility: Perceived High, Low support 115 4.13 Item volatility: Working/nonworking wives 116 4.14 Item volatility: Child's birth position 117 4.15 Item volatility: Child's age 118 4.16 Item volatility: Interval time period 120 1.17 Q-sort procedure <k weighting used 172 J.18 Q-sort statement rank orders 174 ix A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t This research project could not have been completed without the willingness of the fathers of the children experiencing learning difficulties, and I wish to first of all express my sincere appreciation for their cooperation and their candid comments throughout the process. The Head Teachers of the two Teaching and Evaluation Centres supplied the names of potential subjects, and mailed contact letters to all possible subjects, taking time out of their busy schedule to do so. I am very grateful for their interest and cooperation. Most particularly, I wish to thank Merrily Warren and Veronica Hooker for their unflagging enthusiasm, encouragement, and caring, throughout this roller-coaster experience. I also wish to acknowledge the helpful assistance of my Thesis Committee: Dr. Walter Boldt's patience and thoughtfulness guided me through an unusual research statistical procedure and analysis; Ms. Connie Canam's friendly enthusiasm and critical comments were most appreciated; and Dr. John Friesen's chairmanship encouraged me to explore my topic fully. Thank you all. x Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM The diagnosis of one's child as learning disabled can be experienced by parents as a stressful life event, unexpected, and confusing in nature. The child is diagnosed as such after entering school, sometimes after several years or more of observation and assessment. The process of identification of the problem, assessment by professionals, and special education remediation may all be very unfamiliar and unexpected experiences for the parents. Initial expectations of the child's educational success may give way to uncertainty, anxiety, and discouragement about the child's future educational outcome. This ongoing experience requires various and unusual coping strategies by the parents in order to meet the needs and tasks of the stress situation. One particularly noted coping strategy appears to be social interaction with various members of one's social networks. While mothers have been studied in relation to having a child with a learning disability, very little is known about fathers' use of social networks as a coping strategy in dealing with their child's learning disability. 1.1 Social Interactions 1.1.1 Theoretical background Over the past two decades, researchers have attempted to define the inter-related concepts of social support (Cobb, 1974; Dohrenwend, 1978; Moos, 1984; Sarason & Sarason, 1985; Sarason, Potter, &z Antoni, 1985; Shinn, Lehmann, & Wong, 1984); social networks. 1 Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 2 (Attneave, 1984; Birkel & Reppucci, 1983; Erickson, 1984; Horley &: Strickland, 1984); and their role in mediating or buffering the effects of stress, (Crnic, Greenberg, Ragozin, Robinson Sz Basham, 1983; Dean Sz Lin, 1977; Depner, Wethington, & Ingersoll-Dayton, 1984; Finney, Mitchell, Cronkite, & Moos, 1984; Holahan & Moos, 1985; Kazak & Wilcox, 1984; McFarlane, Norman, Streiner, & Roy, 1984; Procidano & Heller, 1983). The particular relationships between the factors of life events, physical and psycholog- ical health, and social support have been examined by several researchers (Dohrenwend, 1978; Friedrich, Greenberg k Crnic, 1983; McCubbin et al, 1983; Sarason, Johnson &: Siegel, 1978; Sarason, Sarason et al, 1985). The results of this research clearly indi- cate that social support factors and/or social networks have an apparent mediating role, accounting for some of the observed variability in the life events-distress relationship research (Cobb, op.cit.; Holahan & Moos, op.cit.). This mediating role is seen most particularly for women (Crnic et al, 1983; Sarason, Shearin, Pierce &; Sarason, 1987). It appears that, frequently, researchers have confounded the topics, as for example, studying "social support networks". Others have attempted to specify those objective behaviours which appear to represent social support; or to differentiate between per- ceived support (Procidano &; Heller, op.cit.), and enacted support (Thoits, 1986). In their analysis of a number of social support studies, Barrera and Ainlay (1983) describe four factors which seemed to represent objective criteria of social support: Directive Guidance, Non-directive Support, Positive Social Interaction, and Tangible Assistance. Their analysis was one attempt to clarify and to operationalize the several elements of so- cial support (Birkel &z Reppucci, op.cit.; Cutrona, 1986a, 1986b; McFarlane et al, op.cit.; Shumaker & Brownell, 1984). One or more of these elements may be involved in the broad concept of social support, or in using social interactions for support (sometimes termed 'help-seeking'). In general, research on help-seeking behaviour has primarily focused on groups of Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 3 women experiencing specific stressful life events. For example, Crnic et al (1983) studied mothers of premature and full-term infants. As the birth of an infant is certainly a stress- ful event (whether premature or full-term), and the experience of having a premature infant may be considered to engender an even higher stress, both groups of mothers were compared on the variable of use of social interactions for support, and assessed as to the effect of such social support interactions on stress. Results indicate an apparently beneficial effect of utilizing informal intimate networks as a coping strategy, Other re- searchers find similar positive results, indicating that accessing one's social networks of family and friends appears to reduce the apparent stress of life events (Breslau, Staruch & Mortimer, 1982; Friedrich, 1979; Kessler & McLeod, 1984). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) point out the significance of assessing individual appraisal of life events. They have attempted to demonstrate that one of the charac- teristics influencing coping strategies utilized to mediate stress events is the individual one of cognitive appraisal: 1. an event or situation is appraised as being stressful, beyond one's personal capa- bilities and requiring external resources or support; and, 2. the perceived availability of supportive resources from one's social networks (formal and/or informal) is evaluated on an individual basis. In their research, developing measures of perceived social support, Procidano and Heller (1983) noted that perceived social support may be "... one element in an individ- ual's appraisal of and subsequent coping with stress" (p.2). A cautionary note was raised regarding whether some individuals actually receive less social support, or perhaps may "...perceive less support [from friends] as part of their negative self-appraisal" (p.8). Thus, perceived social support can best be defined as ".. .the extent to which an individ- ual believes that his/her needs for support, information, and feedback are fulfilled' (p.2). Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 4 This is part of an individual's belief system, and may be influenced by a number of per- sonal factors, such as: personality characteristics, social competence, past experiences, availability of social interactions, skills of one's formal and informal social network mem- bers, strength of individual need, and areas of individual need (Cobb, 1976; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Scheir, Weintraub, &; Carver, 1986). In coping with stress, the individ- ual's appraisal of perceived support by members of one's social network appears to be of primary importance in the buffering effect of supportive social interactions. 1.1.2 Fathers and social networks In coping with stressful life events, it has been demonstrated in the literature that women tend to use their informal social network for support purposes (Crnic et al, op.cit; Friedrich, 1979; Kessler Sz McLeod, 1984). Research indicates that interactions with family and friends appears to ameliorate the stress mothers experience in regard to vari- ous life events, such as having a handicapped child, birth of a premature infant, financial stress, and so on. Mothers appeared to use their informal social networks as a primary external resource in coping with stressful events; and accessed formal social networks (professionals, agencies) only when informal members were not apparently available. Little differential research is found regarding fathers' as compared with mothers' social support activities and social network characteristics, as pointed out by Murphy (1982), and Price-Bonham and Addison (1978). It appears that early research in this area focused mainly on mothers, as they were assumed to be not only the primary care-giver, but also the only significant influence on the children. Thus, it is not surprising that research attempts to clarify specific characteristics of mothers, their attitudes, parenting styles, and coping strategies (Chapman & Boersma, 1979; Dean &: Jacobson, 1982; Petersen, 1984). There has been a surprising lack of clarification of similar information about fathers, particularly fathers with handicapped children (Markowitz, 1984; Meyer, 1986; Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 5 Price-Bonham &: Addison, op.cit.). Contemporary social changes in awareness of the fathers' role in the family, and active participation in early intervention or education programmes, has lead to a greater acknowledgement of the importance of the father's influence in their children's growth and development (Bradley, 1985; Cummings, 1976; Faerstein, 1981; Levant & Doyle, 1983; Lewis, Feiring & Weintraub, 1981; Linder & Chitwood, 1984; McNeil k Chabassol, 1984; Radin, 1981). It appears, however, that men do not develop nor have access to similar informal social support networks, except perhaps indirectly through their wives. Indeed, their wives would constitute the primary member of their informal social support network, (Antonucci, 1985; Goldberg et al, 1986). Goldberg et al (1986) found that fathers were much more likely to utilize those persons who would constitute their formal network members for apparent supportive purposes, than their informal network members. It is unclear whether husbands access their wives' support network in addition to their own or are themselves supported by their well-supported wives. Unger and Powell (1980) found that a high degree of marital stability appeared to be positively related to the extent to which both spouses' networks were similar and overlapping. These results may indicate that both spouses access each others' social networks at various times, but this is speculative only. Similarly, the quality or strength of the marital relationship was found to be associated (positive correlation) with effective coping behaviours regarding a stressful event (Farber, 1959; Friedrich, op.cit.; Petersen, op.cit). This also appears to indicate the positive influence of the complementarity of parents' social support systems. However, the relative influences of mothers' and fathers' social networks is still to be investigated in detail. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 6 1.1.3 Instrumental role of fathers Research regarding fathers' apparent role behaviour in the family indicates that fathers tend to focus their role in the distressed family on instrumental activities in formal networks, attempting to fulfill felt needs in the family by performing concrete functions, and doing specific tasks: e.g., writing to government departments, driving, scheduling, buying, organizing, controlling, and so on (Beaill &: McGuire, 1982; Farber, op.cit.; McCubbin et al, 1983; McNeil k Chabassol, op.cit.; Vadasy, Fewell, Meyer, Schell, k Greenberg, 1984) In researching fathers of hearing-impaired children, McNeil and Chabassol (1984) found, for example, that fathers expressed a significantly different type of involvement from mothers. Similar in nature to an instrumental role, this pattern they termed "tech- nical involvement", in contrast to the mothers' "expressive involvement" (nurturance, empathic responses to child, emotional reactions). However, it was not clear whether these patterns might indicate an unusually strong traditional role distribution of tasks, a shift to this form from others unknown, an emotional distancing of the father from a stressed situation, or other explanations. This tendency to utilize formal network individuals for support functions appears to be a consistent trend for fathers with handicapped children. However, as very few research studies have been done on fathers and social support, this tendency may be stated only in the most general terms. Further exploratory research needs to be done in this important area. 1.1.4 Impact of a 'hidden handicap' Unlike parents of physically-handicapped children, initially, these fathers may be unaware that there is anything wrong with their child, and have been "...free ...to indulge in Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 7 happy fantasies about the child's future successes," (Willner & Crane, 1979 [p. 32]). The invisibility of the handicap, and the highly controversial nature (Haight, op.cit.) of the diagnostic label 'learning disability' adds the additional stress of uncertainty. As pointed out by McDowell (1976), parents of handicapped children appear to fall into one of two classifications: "In the first group are the parents who have been aware all along that spe- cialized services would be required when their child entered school ... The second group is comprised of those parents who became aware of the need for special services after the child has reached school age. ... For these parents, the concept of special education is new and is seen as an abrupt change in direction. ..." (p.7, added italics). Even with the recent profusion of research on the transition to fatherhood (Beail & McGuire, op.cit.) and bonding with infants (Lamb, 1981), to this point in time, the amount of information generated on the feelings and actions of fathers of school-aged children is very small indeed (Hock et al, op.cit.; Pasley & Gecas, 1984; Rapoport et al, op.cit.). As well, there appears to be only a small amount of information derived from fathers of school-aged children with late-emerging handicaps, such as specific learning disabilities. Although it is recognized that such fathers experience distress, as pointed out by several researchers (Linder &; Chitwood, 1984; Markowitz, 1984), more exploratory studies are needed to ascertain fathers' perceived needs in these stressful situations. Fathers may experience a serious threat to their sense of paternal competence when faced with the information that their child has an invisible handicap (Goldberg et al, op.cit.; Hock et al, op.cit.; Vadasy et al, op.cit.), one which has serious implications for future success. It is also important to recognize that children with a specific learning disability can only be diagnosed as such after entering the school system, where their Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 8 learning skills and weaknesses are assessed over time. Thus, there is a variable period of time wherein it is unclear whether the children's learning difficulties are due to personality characteristics of the child or, are due to specific learning disabilities. It may be difficult for fathers to utilize previously successful responses when faced with the nebulousness of an educational diagnosis, conflicting information and direction from professionals, and unusual demands in regard to their learning disabled child (Haight, 1979). Research on the importance of fathers in childrens' lives has mainly been done on families in which the father is absent, as pointed out by Lamb (1981). Lamb and his colleagues have found that children from father-absent homes have significantly different scholastic achievement scores in particular fields of learning, such as mathematic achieve- ment scores (Lewis, Feiring & Weinraub, 1981; Radin, 1981), as well as demonstrating somewhat different personality traits (Hanson &; Bozett, 1985; Lamb, 1981; Rapoport et al, op.cit.). Although addressing only one variable — father-absence — among many possible influences, such research points out how influential can be one parent on the growth and development of a child. Since it is now recognized that fathers are indeed 'important others' in their chil- dren's lives, with significant influences on children's academic achievement, it seems clear that fathers are worthy of study. In order to be most effective in relation to their children's school problems, fathers may need to access new strategies, both cognitive and behavioural. One apparent coping strategy in dealing with these experiences is the utilization of resources in one's social networks, termed social support-seeking behaviour. 1.2 Research Questions In reference to fathers of children diagnosed with severe learning disabilities requiring special remediation, a number of research questions were addressed by this exploratory Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 9 study. 1. What is the characteristic pattern of social support-seeking behaviour of fathers? 2. Of what relative importance is the father's spouse in providing social support? 3. Do fathers access their spouse's social networks, particularly their spouse's family and friends, for support purposes? 4. Do fathers with working wives have different patterns of social support-seeking behaviour than fathers with at-home wives? 5. Which particular members of their informal social network are accessed by fathers for support purposes? 6. Which members of their formal social network are accessed by fathers for support purposes? 7. What is the relative importance reported by fathers of accessing their formal and informal networks' members? 8. In regard to fathers' formal social network, of what relative importance are specific groups of network members, such as school personnel, medical personnel, religious persons, and others? 9. Do fathers primarily utilize active behaviours in accessing members of their social networks? 1.3 Hypotheses 1. The fathers' spouse will be reported as the primary support person in the informal social network. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 10 2. Fathers will not access other members of their informal social network to a signifi- cant degree. 3. Fathers will utilize the most relevant members of their formal social network: teach- ers, educational specialists, principals, School Board personnel. 4. Fathers will access their spouse's informal network equally as they access their own informal network. 5. Fathers who perceive themselves to be poorly supported by their informal network members will utilize their spouse to a higher degree than fathers who perceive themselves to be well supported. 6. Fathers with working spouses will report a significantly different social support- seeking behaviour pattern than fathers with at-home wives. 7. Fathers will be pro-active in accessing the members of their social networks. 1.4 Definition of Terms 1.4.1 Fathers Fathers are of mainstream English-Canadian culture; of intact families; both parents are the birth parents of all the (2 or 3) children in the home, only one of which has been identified as having a learning disability; and, the target child was between 8 and 12 years of age at time of placement to the specialized centre. These fathers represent the traditional nuclear family father, and may well constitute a relatively homogeneous group. Chapter 2. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 11 1.4.2 Teaching & Evaluation Centres The specialized centres for children with suspected severe learning disabilities are termed 'Teaching and Evaluation Centres' in Vancouver. The shortened form 'T. & E. Centre' will be used throughout the study. The two T. &; E. Centres utilized are Elementary school centres, and have been functioning as specialized placement centres for more than four years. They are housed in regular public elementary schools, and children have a limited degree of interaction with the school population. Children are placed in the T. & E. Centres for a three month period. Up to 15 children at a time are in the centre, with 3 specialized teachers and one staff assistant; additional support teachers provide follow-up on the children when they have completed their placement. This is a relatively intense period of testing, assessment, observation, and teaching for the children. They may be drawn from other Vancouver elementary schools, so the placement may necessitate some disruption of the children from their neighbourhood school and peers. It may happen that for some children, the T. & E. Centre is housed in their original home school, thus this would be a much less disruptive experience. Additionally, transportation requirements mean that parents may drive their children to the centres, or they may choose to use the transportation services provided by the Vancouver School Board. Parent interviews are an important part of the placement procedure, and of the evaluative process at the centres. Fathers as well as mothers attend these interviews whenever feasible. The entry criteria are detailed below, under the definition of learning disability. 1.4.3 Learning Disability The term 'learning disability' will be used to describe the severe educational difficulties these fathers' children experience in elementary school. The specific children selected were Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 12 those who were denned by the Vancouver School Board (1985, p.56) as being suspected of having severe learning disabilities. The entry criteria for the T. & E. Centre, a three month diagnostic remedial programme, are as follows, and provide a useful definition of learning disability: • possess at least average intellectual ability; • exhibit at least a two year delay in achievement; • show a significant discrepancy between their estimated learning potential and actual performance; • exhibit extreme difficulties in some of the following areas: attention, perception, memory, reasoning, coordination, communication, reading, writing, spelling, calcu- lation, social competence and emotional maturation; and, • have learning problems NOT primarily resultant from factors such as: (a) sensory or physical impairments (b) mental retardation (c) emotional disturbance and/or lack of motivation to learn (d) environmental or cultural disadvantage, including a second language factor (e) lack of opportunity to learn: poor attendance or transience 1.4.4 Diagnosis Taken from the medical model, the term diagnosis refers to an eliminative process of testing, observing, and interviewing in order to determine the 'cause' and/or 'etiology' of an apparent 'disease' — in this case, severe learning disability. Therefore, the term Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 13 diagnosis will refer to the process of individualized assessment by specific professionals at the Vancouver School Board. Their function is to assist in the identification of those children who appear to be "... developmentally vulnerable or at risk, or who manifest a specific educational difficulty."(Vancouver School Board, 1985, p.9). Once identified, children may be placed in the T. & E. Centre, a diagnostic remedial programme, providing not only a full educational diagnosis in a clinical teaching setting, but also an in-depth remediation and programme plan for the individual child. 1.4.5 Target Child The term target child will refer to the child identified as having learning disabilities, as defined above. The target child will be one of the several children of the studied fathers, and will have completed a three month period in one of the specialized remediation centres in Vancouver, the T. Sz E. Centres. Although the target children may have been between 8 and 12 years of age during placement to the Centre, their current age at time of this study ranged from 8 to 15 years of age. 1.4.6 Stressors Stressors are defined as those significant life events which appear to strain the capacity of an individual's internal and external resources in meeting the task requirements needed to cope with the event(s). In the context of this study, the primary stressor identified is that of having one's child diagnosed as severely learning disabled, requiring specialized remediation. Other secondary stressors have to do with the process of assessment, inter- action with a number of school professionals, changed transportation arrangements, and so on. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 14 1.4.7 Social Networks The term social networks describes the interconnection of persons in an individual's social environment. They may be subdivided into two major groupings: 1. Formal Social Network: comprises those persons with whom an individual has a structured hierarchical relationship, one involving receiving specialized service, in general: doctor, counsellor, teacher, clergy, administrators. 2. Informal Social Network: comprises those persons with whom an individual has a relatively egalitarian relationship based on mutual social transactions, involving friendship group, family members, acquaintances, colleagues. 1.4.8 Social Ecology The term social ecology refers to the particular social environment of the individual, describing the various contextual systems influencing an individual. Bronfenbrenner's model (1977) of contextual systems moves from the more direct and intimate, to indirect and more distant groups: microsystem: the individual and an immediate significant other, generally a family member; in reference to the study, a child and father; mesosystem: the social group directly influencing the person or child, such as the nu- clear family; macrosystem: the social group outside the family with some direct influence, such as the school, neighbourhood, church groups; and, exosystem: the social institution having indirect influence, such as governmental poli- cies, ethnic values, status of women, and so on. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 15 Past research on the influences of parents on children addressed mainly the microsystem of the child-mother dyad. 1.4.9 S o c i a l S u p p o r t The term social support refers to a transaction of aid from one person or institution to a stressed individual. There may be various functions which are termed 'aid', such as guidance, information, specific material assistance, There may be various factors involved which may be termed 'aid', Some researchers believe social support to be inherent such as guidance, information, specific material assistance, and positive social interactions. Some researchers believe social support to be inherent in social interactions, others believe it to be the perception of availability of resources in one's social networks, still others believe it to be the perception that one is esteemed and cared for, whether or not 'aid' is provided. This is described further in the Literature Review. Social support appears to be a resource of an individual, providing an apparent buffering or mediating effect on the experience of a stressful life event. 1.4.10 Stressor—speci f ic i ty fit The concept of stressor-specificity fit refers to the interdependent factors of: • the type of support resources [to be] used, internal and/or external resources; and, • the coping requirements indicated by the specific stressor identified by an individ- ual. It is believed that when these two factors are appropriately matched, an individual is most able to cope effectively with the experience of a stressful life event or situation. This model is sometimes termed 'ecological congruence'. Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION to PROBLEM 16 1.5 Focus of Study As has been described, earlier, research indicates that fathers appear to preferentially utilize their formal rather than informal networks, for task-oriented support activities, an instrumental role. However, it is not clear from the research who exactly fathers seek out for support purposes. Sometimes, fathers' responses have not been differentiated from mothers' responses, e.g., when researchers have interviewed the parents together to obtain "parents' social support networks" (Abbott & Meredith, 1986; Goldberg et al, op.cit.). Or, since it is 'known' that mothers have the greatest influence on their children, only mothers have been interviewed and assessed (Friedrich &; Friedrich, 1981). In these and other similar cases, we are left with very little useable data on fathers' uses of their social networks for support purposes. " Since mothers' patterns have been described in the literature, in this exploratory study, fathers will be assessed as to their reported social support-seeking behaviour: the utilization patterns of their personal formal and informal social networks. The impor- tance of identifying a father's use of support systems in coping with the unusual stress appears overdue. Such knowledge is essential in order for professionals to utilize fathers as change agents in the treatment programme for their children demonstrating a learning disability. In order to work effectively with these fathers, however, we need to learn more about from whom they seek social support. This is the primary focus of the research project described herein. Chapter 2 REVIEW of the LITERATURE The literature will be reviewed as follows, under the topic headings of: social support, social networks, gender differences regarding stress and social support, the 'normal' fam- ily, fathering and the experience of fatherhood, families and stress, and adaptive coping strategies. Relevant findings will be discussed in relationship to fathers and the experi- ence of fathering a handicapped or learning disabled child of school age. A summary of fathers' apparent social support-seeking behaviours concludes the literature review. "The time has arrived when just as researchers now regard as naive the notion that all stress is bad, likewise all social support is not necessarily good, is not appropriate in all situations, nor to everyone, nor is it always 'supportive'" (Hobfoll, 1985, p.406). 2.1 Social Support Researchers in the field of stress have attempted to identify the particular variable(s) which might account for the observed variability in individuals' responses to stressful life events. Some people appear to cope very well, demonstrating positive mental health, good levels of physical health, apparently positive relationships with others, and, in many ways, manage the stress with apparent ease. Others, however, apparently handle seemingly similar stressful life events with 'dis-ease', and manifest poor mental health symptoms (e.g., depression), poor physical health (Sarason, Sarason, Potter & Antoni, 17 Chapter 2. REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 18 1985), or, chaotic or disrupted relationships. In sum, they were apparently unable to manage their stress towards a positive outcome (Cobb, 1974,1976; Dean &; Lin, 1977; Dohrenwend, 1978; Finney, Mitchell, Cronkite &: Moos, 1984; Kessler &: McLeod, 1985). This disparity was believed due to a number of various influential factors; however, it was not clear whether any single one might be pinpointed as the major variable involved in explaining the disparity noted. As pointed out by Wilcox and Vernberg (1985, p.3), "One particular factor which has received more attention than all others combined is social support", with its apparent mediating or buffering effect on individuals' experiences of stressful life events. That social interaction plays a significant part in the coping process is clear and intuitively obvious, as demonstrated in the traditional Danish proverb: "No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor", (Sarason &z Sarason, 1985, Preface). The belief that people are social animals, not isolates, underpins the research in the domain of stress and coping. Scales have been developed and tested by a number of researchers attempting to weigh life events in terms of their relative negative impact on individuals (Dohrenwend, Krasnoff,Askenasy & Dohrenwend, 1978; Holmes & Rahe, 1967; Sarason, Johnson Sz Siegel, 1978). Such life events scales have added to our knowledge of the effects that high stress situations can have on particular groups of persons. There has been much consensus on the weighting of certain life events. Most stressful life events scales weight events differentially: the highest weighting being given to divorce or death of a spouse, but relatively high weightings also being given to such life events as changing jobs, changing neighbourhoods. Note that the changing social context of the individual is regarded as the primary reason for the experienced stress. Kale and Stenmark (1983) reviewed the most commonly used life event scales, and found that undesirable events were the major factor influencing the ability to predict individuals' adjustment. They also found males and females were differentially affected Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 19 by life events, particularly in relation to the dimension of time. Gender differences are discussed further, later in this chapter. Research in the domain of stress demonstrated that some individuals appeared to manage their negative life experiences in part due to the interactive relationships they maintained with their kin i.e., family, and their non-kin i.e., friends (Kessler & McLeod, op.cit.; Sarason, Sarason, Potter &; Antoni, op.cit.). Social support has been frequently envisaged as positive active interactions with others, providing for the needs of the stressed individual (emotional, financial, material, and so forth); such needs being ei- ther explicit or implicit in the life situation itself (Barrera, 1986; Gourash, 1978). Past research frequently used the concept ".. .to stand for any type of social interaction that is associated with health and well-being" (Heller & Lakey, 1985, p.296). The significant effect on health and well-being of positive social interactions is clear. Sarason, Shearin, Potter, and Antoni (1985) recently studied the effect of social support on illness in young men (aged 18-27). Variables as number of support persons, and apparent satisfaction with support received, were studied in direct relation to recorded illnesses for these isolated young men. They found higher rates of illness were found in those groups of men experiencing negative life events, and in those individuals reporting experiencing low support (low both in numbers and in satisfaction). The particularly supportive aspects of specific social interactions were rarely isolated in early research in this field, and contributed to the confusion of reported results. It seemed clear that social relationships appeared to be, indeed, positive and supportive in most, but not all, cases. Several researchers found that, in some situations, social relationships seemed to be counter-productive to the needs of the individual, or to be even negative or destructive, essentially contributing no buffering or mediating effect upon the stressed individual, (Hirsch, 1985; Holohan & Moos, 1985). Hirsch (1985) points out that social networks or social interactions "... can hurt as well as help"(p.H8), in his Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 20 analysis of the processes by which social support may affect mental health and wellbeing. Bluntly, Pearlin and Schooler (1978) state: "...the very term social supports prejudges an effect of social ties that empirically is still only putative" (p.204). The difficulty in defining the concept has made clear how multi-faceted the nature of social support is. Attempts to simplify the definition have been somewhat unsatisfactory, as has been indicated by several theoreticians (Cobb, 1976; Cohen & Syme, 1985; Heller, Swindle &: Dusenbury, 1986; Hobfoll, 1985; Pearlin & Schooler, op.cit.; Sarason & Sara- son, op.cit.; Thoits, 1986). Hobfoll (op.cit.), in his critical discussion of the limitations of social support in the stress process, summarizes this problem, stating: " .. .the use of correlational studies and an atheoretical approach has led to a simplistic model" (p.391). 2.1.1 Stressors In most stress and coping research, the stressors in the models utilized, are identified as specific negative life events or chronic fife stresses (chronic illness, long-term disability), which are considered to "... disrupt [one's] usual activities either acutely or chronically" (Thoits, 1986, p.416). From a research point of view, it is important to note in the selection of subjects that the group of persons who might have experienced a high number (or high negative score) of recent stressful life events could differ significantly from the group having very low scores on recent life events (Hobfoll, op.cit.). This may be true whether or not the events are or were outside of an individual's control (e.g., tax increases, accidental death of child, local weather catastrophe, and so on). The differences between those persons could affect significantly the individuals' ability to use or seek out potential resources, such as social support. Yet such subgroupings of persons, if not identified from the outset, cannot be further analyzed, and the total research results may well be 'smeared'. McFarlane, Norman, Streiner, Sz Roy (op.cit.), in their study on the characteristics Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 21 of effective and ineffective social support, differentiated one group which perceived low (ineffective) social support in coping with their stressful life events. Information was gathered from all subjects on their past life experiences, as well as current experiences. This group of perceived low social support persons reported a higher number, and more major stressful life events in childhood, as well as in the more recent and current past. McFarlane and associates speculate that this group - due to these major negative expe- riences in life - might be considered to be 'disabled' in learning to form helpful social ties. Thus, they would be unable to utilize the social network available to them, or would be unable to develop social networks and interactions. This social disability would then explain how some individuals appear to be unhelped by social interactions towards man- aging their stressful events effectively. On the other hand, it is possible to suggest that this group may also be reflecting a general negativity in perception of their life, whether or not due to the negative stressful life events experienced. These results indicate the complexity in what might constitute social support. Cobb (1976) theorized that social support could be defined as information leading the subject to believe he is cared for and loved, is esteemed and valued, and belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation. Note that this reflects a current view that it is the perception of being esteemed and cared for that is considered the most important aspect of what constitutes social support. Similarly, Sarason, Shearin, Pierce and Sarason (op.cit.), in studying the interrelations of various social support measures, noted that measures of perceived (to be available) support "... generally assess the extent to which an individual is accepted, loved, and involved in relationships in which communication is open" (p.813). With such perceived support, the individual should be facilitated in adaptive coping strategies. In contrast with the above concept, Heller, Swindle, and Dusenbury (1986), felt that social support was likely to be a psychosocial asset, one of the individual's characteristics, Chapter 2 . REVIEW of the LITERATURE 22 an internal resource. Thus, differences in responses might be attributed to individuality of internal resources, rather than to characteristics of external resources (e.g., support networks). Kobasa (1985) explored this notion of individual resources and stress, noting that there appeared to be some individuals who could best be described as 'hardy', with particular clusters of characteristics common to them. This promising area of research is just beginning to be explored. The cognitive appraisal of one's environmental resources appears to be one step in the adaptive coping process, and has been examined by Heller, Swindle and Dusenbury (1986), Lazarus and Folkman (1984), and Wilcox and Vernberg (1985). As an individual is faced with a situation or event which requires new adaptations (new actions or skills), that person may perceive his/her personal capabilities as being inadequate to meeting the challenge. Such resources may be considered to encompass both internal and external sources. "Resource appraisal ... involves the evaluation of one's coping repertoire ... [i.e.,] the coping options the individual believes are available. ... [This] is the first stage in the stress and coping process at which social support operates, and many researchers speculate that this is the point at which support plays its major role" (Wilcox &; Vernberg, op.cit., p.5). In exploring this evaluative step in the coping process, Heller and his associates have ex- plored in detail the notion of perceived support in one's cognitive appraisal. Their results lead them to believe that it is the perception of support that is one of the most important aspects in the coping process (Heller & Lakey, 1985; Heller, Swindle & Dusenbury, 1986; and, Procidano & Heller, 1983). Measures of how individuals perceive their social rela- tionships to be supportive were developed by Procidano and Heller (1983). These scales focus on two very important social relationship groups: family members, and friendship Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 23 members. It was found that individuals were able to differentiate differing support from these groups. Procidano and Heller (op.cit.) believed that it was important to differentiate between these two groups of potential support, since family networks generally are of long du- ration, and support from family seems to be relatively stable (p. 19). Similarly, it has been pointed out that individual differences in social skills or personality characteristics are more involved in the development and maintainance of friendship networks (Heller k Lakey, 1985) than in family (of origin) network maintainance. Sarason et al (1987), found that the two scales differentiated by gender, in that the 'Family' group was apparently less important re support for men than for women (in the young adult group they studied). Whether this finding can be generalized to other age groups is not known, and further research is indicated. Additionally, it is important to recognize that one's support network (friends, in particular) is likely to change throughout one's life. Therefore, Procidano and Heller caution that to generalize "... social support results across age groups and, perhaps, socioeconomic groups should, at best, be tentative." Sarason et al (1985) used these scales on perceived social support (among others), in the development of a questionnaire concerning social support. They found that the perceived number of supports, and the degree to which those supports were personally satisfying were found to be two quite separate facets of the general concept. However, biased assumptions in the field of social support and social support networks research were demonstrated, in two areas: • it was considered more 'healthy' to have a large number of persons in one's social support network, and • it was believed that the most supportive persons were most likely to be kin, and Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 24 secondarily, significant close relationships. In direct contrast to the Sarason et al (1985), McFarlane et al (1984) found that those subjects who felt less helped by their social network, tended to have large networks, to have more contact with their network and, surprisingly, to experience less help from their significant close relationships, than did the group with high-helpfulness networks. Additionally, it was found that the number of contacts was not as significant in defin- ing helpfulness as was the 'quality' of the contact, particularly so with significant close relationships. Clearly, neither the simple number of contacts available to one, or utilized by one in coping with stressful life events, nor the closeness of the social relationship is the most significant determinant to defining what is meant by effective social support. 2.2 S o c i a l S u p p o r t N e t w o r k s Social support networks are considered to constitute those socially interconnected persons who provide — or are perceived to be available to provide — support to one who needs such assistance due to the experience of stressful life events. It appears that social networks are involved in assisting us to achieve critical developmental tasks over the life-span, particularly our ability to articulate viable social roles in major spheres of life. These social roles and responsibilities provide direction and help us in handling the various adjustments required when faced with negative or stressful life events. Recent research has attempted to define the specific characteristics of social support networks which render them effective or ineffective (Cutrona, 19866; McFarlane, Norman, Streiner & Roy, 1984; Thoits, 1986). When most members of a particular network are as involved with each other as with the supported person, the network is said to be 'dense'. This may be particularly Chapter 2: REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 25 characteristic of certain family groups, or of certain neighbourhoods, or of socioeconomic classes. The boundaries of networks refers to the degree to which people integrate or segregate spheres of their life. For example, if one's work contacts have no contact with one's neighbourhood contacts, no contact with one's family contacts, no contact with one's friend contacts: the boundaries are considered to be closed. Each group of social contacts expresses one's specific social role within a specified social environment. Researchers' results indicate that a less dense network with more open boundaries seems to be more helpful in providing stressed individuals with more adaptive coping strategies (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck &; Hoberman, 1985; Pearlin, 1985; Schilling, Gilchrist & Schinke, 1984; Unger & PoweU, 1980). Hirsch (op.cit.) believes that it is most useful to use the metaphor of a 'personal community' to investigate the coping process and social support networks, i.e., the so- ciocultural context of one's social roles. This is similar to Bronfenbrenner's (1977) model of one's social contexts as major influences on one's growth and development. These various contextual systems have been denned in the section on definition of terms in Chapter 1, and are labelled as, microsystem, mesosystem, macrosystem, and, exosys- tem. Bronfenbrenner believed that the developing individual was influenced by these various systems in specific ways. Studying the effects of specific systems on the per- son, i.e., the person's social ecology, would be most likely to isolate important variables. Similarly, Hirsch (op.cit.) recommended research in the important domains linking the social network's support to the person's social ecology, in particular, to salient aspects of the micro-to-macro environments. Note that one's social networks may thus be divided into two groupings: informal, comprising one's micro- and meso-systems; and formal, generally referring to one's macro- and exo-systems. Formal relationships generally imply non-reciprocity of relationships, and are hier- archical in nature. One is generally soliciting services from an acknowledged expert or Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 26 specialist in the particular field of endeavour. For that reason, such relationships are in- herently problem-focused, solution-oriented, relatively concrete and, often, short-term in nature. They involve a structured relationship with an individual in a specific institu- tion, and would include doctors, social workers, clergy, administrators, teachers, and the like. Some formal networks might constitute a fairly large network of such individuals, working together for support of the stressed individual. In contrast, informal networks tend to be much more stable over time than are formal networks. They involve social transactions of various categories of 'aid': such as money, car-pooling, advice, loaning of items, and so on. As such, they tend to be of relatively equal status, and tend to be reciprocal in a non-hierarchical manner. As pointed out ear- lier, informal networks of social relationships would involve one's closest kin relationships (nuclear and extended family), as well as one's friendship relationships as the two largest groups involved. Possible other informal relationships may be with such individuals as acquaintances, colleagues at work, and service personnel seen more or less regularly such as, waiters or waitresses, bartender, barber or hairstylist, and the like. One's family of origin constitute the major group of one's informal support network. They are the most stable relationships over time, (Procidano & Heller, op.cit.) and, as stated succinctly by the poet Robert Frost: "Home is the place where When you have to go there They have to take you in" Chapter 2. R E V I E W of the LITERATURE 27 2.2.1 Characteristics of friendship networks The characteristic of strong bonds over time seen in one's relationship with one's family demonstrates a degree of choicelessness that is in sharp contrast to that of one's friend- ship network (Rubin, 1985). Friendship relationships are of variable nature in terms of intensity, intimacy, and duration. Frequently, they change in nature as our circumstances or contexts change, as we develop as persons in various social roles. They also change as our immediate needs change. They tend to be relationships where the social context is the reason as well as the outcome of the relationship. Inherently social in nature, friend- ship relationships tend to be emotion-focused, and involve abstract concepts of personal values, beliefs, opinions. They may also involve some social transactions which may be unequal (similar to formal relationships), but in general, friendship patterns tend to be relatively equal, reciprocal, and of variable duration (Procidano & Heller, op.cit.; Rubin, op.cit.). Procidano and Heller (op.cit.) point out that the composition of a person's social network is likely to change over time; and that therefore, one should be wary of general- izing social support results across age groups and, perhaps, across socioeconomic groups as well. Researchers have not often assessed the differential effects of time and context on how one's social networks may assist in coping with stress. Assumptions have been made by researchers concerning the supposed 'equality' of volunteer subjects in terms of their current functioning, past personal experiences, and available resources. As Hobfoll (op.cit.) discussed in his analysis of methodological concerns in research- ing social support, general community samples (e.g., Holahan & Moos, op.cit.) have been used in order to arrive at generalizable results. However, the effect may be highly inac- curate and incomplete: "... subgroups who are affected differently by the independent variable will also cause a distorted picture " (p.394). That is, since there are unknown Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 28 patterns of results from specific subgroups in the general sample — perhaps very signif- icantly different either in degree or in kind from other subgroups — the results may be considered to be 'smeared', resulting in skewed or inaccurate interpretations of results. Hobfoll is concerned that researchers take note of the individual's social ecology, giving specific attention to this interplay of: "... the fit of a given resource or set of resources to meet the emotional and task requirements of a given stress situation, for a given group, at a given point in their lives, and at a given time in relationship to the occurence of a crisis event " (p.396). It is not enough that support may be available or may be offered. It must meet the needs of the individual, and be appropriate and useful. Most significantly, support must be congruent with the needy individual's appraisal of the situation and his internal and external resources (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck & Hoberman, 1985; Shinn, Lehmann &; Wong, 1984). If not congruent, the individual may not be open to receiving the help, nor able to utilize it when offered. Clearly, 'help' may not always be 'help-ful' to a stressed individual. As pointed out by Brownell and Shumaker (1984), the purpose of studying social support and support networks and measuring effectiveness, is to develop appropriate intervention programs which improve the quality of life for the affected recipients. One characteristic of social support networks which appears to be most critical, is the effect of having one or two intimate relationships, such as with one's spouse, or with one or two very close friends. Hobfoll (op.cit.) believes that "[This] size effect may be a threshold effect" (p.394). As men and women appear to utilize and develop intimate relationships in different manners, it seems helpful to examine the research in the area of the interactive effects of gender and social support networks. Chapter 2. REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 29 2.3 Gender Differences Much research in social support networks and their supportive function has been done measuring women experiencing stressful life events (Crnic, Greenberg, Ragozin, Robin- son &: Basham, 1983; Friedrich, 1979; Kessler &; McLeod, 1984; Wethington & Kessler, 1986). From such analysis, it appears that women preferentially utilize their informal kin networks primarily, and their informal non-kin networks secondarily. Only when those two groups appear not to be meeting their needs satisfactorily do women begin to approach members of their formal network for aspects of support (aid, advice, guidance). Additionally, research has indicated that women are affected markedly by interactions with their informal social support systems, in contrast to men's experiences. Dohrenwend (op.cit.) and others have found that the number of undesirable life events is approximately equal between the sexes, but women appear to be significantly more affected emotionally than men. Kessler and McLeod (op.cit.) examined this sex— distress relationship, i.e., that women have significantly higher rates of psychological distress than do men. The results of their studies showed overwhelmingly that men were less responsive [reactive] to events, and also that women were more affected by the number and kind of network events. They attempted to ascertain whether the traditional social role of women (listening, supporting, nurturing) carried a heavy stress component, but were unable to verify this. And, they found no evidence to demonstrate that men are as affected [negatively] due to their provision of support to others: "... women far outnumber men among informal helpers. Nonetheless, help- seekers describe receiving considerable help from men, and they report that the types of help received include listening, comforting, and talking things out — the very sorts of emotional support that are presumably most distressing for [women] providers" (Kessler & McLeod, 1984, p.628). Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 30 The theoretical assumption that the social role of women accounts for the gender-variance results was not borne out. Results were inconclusive for other related variables. Further research in this area is continuing, attempting to tease out significant variables involved in the gender differences noted. As noted, women and men use their social networks in very different ways. The network members that women most appear to utilize are mainly for affiliative activities, and include family members, friends, and neighbours (Dunst, Trivette & Cross, 1986). McCubbin, McCubbin et al (1983), found that, in contrast, fathers tended to utilize their time and energy in more instrumental or task-oriented activities, including seeking contact with individuals who would be considered part of one's formal support network or macrosystem. However, Sarason et al (1985) point out the response biases built into many of the social support and social networks measures: "Although men certainly have a need to be intimate and to confide in some- one whom they are assured cares for them, this type of relationship is more characteristic for women. Support relationships for men are perhaps more 'comradely' relationships, that provide them with opportunities to get their minds off their troubles, rather than sources for confiding" (p. 160)." Thus, researchers are beginning to speculate that the experience of 'social support' may be operationalized in significantly different ways by men and by women. It is clear that researchers have, to some degree, attempted to use the particular pattern of social support-seeking of women as the standard against which to measure the 'proper' social support-seeking patterns of men. Chapter 2. R E V I E W of the LITERATURE 31 2.3.1 S p o u s a l S u p p o r t Antonucci (1985), noted that there were fundamental sex differences in both the nature and the functioning of social support, in that "Men generally maintain a close and inti- mate tie with only one person, their spouse" (p. 31). This is related both to Hobfoll's (1985) hypothesis that there exists a threshold effect — that one have an intimate re- lationship with one or two persons — and, with the observation that marital quality is one of the most significant variables in determining positive coping outcomes for stressed individuals (Friedrich &z Friedrich, 1981). The unique role played by the spouse, and the quality of the marital relationship may be the two most important determinants of support effects according to Heller, Swindle and Dusenbury (op.cit.). In attempting to understand the support characteristics of these intimate relationships, they wonder: "Are successful marriages unique, or are their support processes simply concentrated versions of the functions served by most good friendships?"(p.469). These researchers are referring to husbands being supported by their wives, once again demonstrating the subtle conceptual bias that social support functions are what women do in inter-relating with others. Antonucci (op.cit.) noted it was likely that men rely primarily on their spouse for support, while women appeared to rely on more and varied sources of support. Holohan and Moos (op.cit.), in their study of 267 families, found that "... [That] support in the family environment operated as a stress resistance factor for women but not for men is consistent with the finding that women deal with stress by turning toward other people, whereas men respond to stress with social withdrawal" (p. 745). Clearly marriage provides men with the single most important source of social sup- port. There could be serious repercussions on the husbands' perception of their wives' Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 32 availability as the primary resource person in their social network, if their wives work outside of home, or if they are not available for a number of other reasons (health, small children demands, etc.). Not only are wives important as primary support resources to their husbands, but also they have generally filled the role of maintaining social interac- tions with both of their extended families. Additionally, they have traditionally been the instigators of social interactions with non-kin groups, such as with friends, neighbours, church committees, and other informal groups. Over the past few decades there have been changes in the social roles of marital partners. The relative unavailability of the wife for the husband in current North American society is mainly due to observed trends towards two-career families with few children. Antonucci (op.cit.) speculates that: "... if women have maintained these diverse networks and the role of kinship keeper because of their traditional role as homemaker, the increased tendency for women to work outside the home most of their adult lives will have a very negative effect on the maintainance of this role" (p. 32). This hypothesis is further discussed in fathers' changing roles, later in this chapter. Antonucci assumes that men (as husbands and fathers) would continue to maintain tra- ditional roles and patterns of behaviour in the future, even though recognizing that women's roles and patterns have been changing markedly in the past decades. Summary of gender differences Men do not appear to be as negatively affected by events experienced by members of their informal network as do women, even for those men who seem to provide similar supportive functions to support-seekers. Although men do develop friendships with others, those relationships may express companionship functions rather than emotional support functions characteristic of women. Men have traditionally utilized a role best Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 33 described as instrumental or task-oriented, compared to the affective, nurturant role generally observed in women. It does seem clear that in terms of satisfaction with social support, men find the group of 'family' to have significantly less impact and less importance in meeting their needs, than do women. And that men find having at least one intimate relationship - often their spouse - is an essential and necessary determinant to their feeling supported regarding a stressful life event. The changing roles of men and women in today's society may be best described and differentiated when assessing families, particularly assessing families with a handicapped member. The following sections attempt to summarize some of our knowledge and un- derstanding about how families function. 2.4 The 'Normal' Family In attempting to assess how a family copes with stressful life events, and judge whether or not coping behaviour is healthy, it is important to recognize what is a normal family, and what constitute normal and healthy characteristics. Unfortunately, very little work has been done in this area. Most studies on families have focused on those who have one or more members brought to the attention of a professional (i.e., doctors, hospital personnel, psychologists, social workers, and so on). Thus, there has been some demonstrated pathology evident before the family has been subject to any testing procedures, and there have been no opportunities to measure family functioning prior to evident pathology. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether the pathology is a result of the dysfunctional patterns evident, or whether the dysfunctional patterns of functioning are the family's attempts over time to cope with and adapt to the emergence of a member's pathology. This may be particularly evident when a member's pathology is minimal, invisible, or Chapter 2. REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 34 ambiguous. As Gantman (1980) pointed out in her literature review of families which appear to work well, most research on family functioning has been done on families with the follow- ing characteristics: white, Protestant, middle class, intact families, with one adolescent. Characteristics of these apparently healthy families showed that there were clear leader- ship definitions, and clear subsystems of spouses/parents/siblings; there appeared to be high levels of communication, with toleration of personal autonomy; the family members seemed to share an overlapping prception of what constitutes 'reality'; and the structure of the family appeared to be flexible (adaptable), changing over time. There appear to be definite needs for the family to continue to adapt as their situation changes. Indeed, several researchers postulate that families have developmental tasks as do individuals (Duvall, 1977; Rhodes, 1977). The family is seen as a social system "... in transaction with other social systems ... [with] the interactional im- pact of individuals at different stages in the life cycle and their reciprocal effect on one another over time" (Rhodes, op.cit., p.303). All families may expect to experience particular kinds of 'normal' stress during stages of their family life cycle. Major transition points have been identified and used as models for therapeutic intervention, by several researchers (Berry & Zimmerman, 1983; Duvall, op.cit.; Meyer, 1986; O'Hara, Chaiklin & Mosher, 1980; Rhodes, op.cit.) and described - in relation to the family with a handicapped child, as: the beginning family, the expectant couple, the child bearing years, the family with preschool children, the family with school age children, the family with a teenager, the family as launching center, families in the middle years, aging farnilies. At each of these transition points, families may have specific needs and tasks which Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 35 may be blocked by the prolonged dependence of the handicapped child, or by the par- ticular demands made of the family resources in order to meet the needs of the child. Parents may be unable to continue their individual personal growth if they find all their energies going into their difficult roles of parents of their needy child. It may be difficult for the family to handle the typical social interactions with their neighbourhood and other macrosystems that characterize (for example) the family with a teenager. These crises, or milestones, may be considered critical transitions, and would be experienced as stressors by the parents, along two dimensions: time (whether temporary or permanent), and control (whether voluntary or involuntary), (Mederer h Hill, 1983, p.50). School entry is one very important and conspicuous such transition. In terms of a child going to school, the stress experienced partially relates to the fact that this step begins a new set of transactional relations of the parents, schools, and neighbourhood contexts. Additionally, while in school, the child enters a broader social ecology "... where one creates an identity apart from one's position as a family member" (Rhodes, op.cit., p.306). The family as a primary socialization agent for the child now must interact with an external institution in the ecological environment influencing the child (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), with repercussions on all members of the family. These constitute normal transitions for the family, over its life span. This is but one perspective for denning normality in families; what Walsh (1983) describes as 'transactional family functioning'. Other perspectives he describes are: (a) asymptomatic functioning, rooted in the medical model, wherein there is an absence of specific criteria of psychopathology; (b) optimal functioning, a personal judgmental view, where one assesses functioning only in relation to the top end of a continuum of positive (ideal) characteristics; and, (c) average functioning, a statistical model, describing the family as to degree of conforming to typical or most prevalent patterns in society (which latter may be 'myths', however). Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 36 Walsh (op.cit.) attempts to describe what are normal family ideologies, noting that normal is equated with healthy, and average constitutes normal. Several myths he dis- tilled from American research as well as from popular writing are the following relevant examples, summarized: normal families are symptom-free; are, and should remain, in- tact; they maintain traditional male/female role divisions within the home; contemporary countermyth: supermoms do it all!; and, the nuclear family is usually isolated from the extended family (p.6-12). These ideas and observations of what constitutes a healthy and normal family are like small sections of a giant puzzle. Frequently, they do not explain how families can be so different yet still be 'healthy'; nor do they allow for a perspective on the influ- ences of ethnic patterns (differing from the mainstream patterns of behaviour) on family functioning. The changing patterns over time are not clearly modelled; nor is it clear whether families have an inherent tendency towards healthy functioning, and thus might be expected to have ups and downs in their normal functioning over time. McCubbin, Joy, Cauble, Comeau, Patterson and Needle (1980), in studying families and their experiences of stress, noted that there were four major domains of research in this field. These are: 1. family responses to normative transitions; 2. family responses to NON-normative transitions; 3. family psychological resources (perceptions of); 4. the nature and importance of social support and coping in the family's management of stress. In terms of normative transitions, Pasley and Gecas (1984) studied 149 mothers' and 136 fathers' experiences of their children at different ages. The different age groups Chapter 2. REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 37 were originally set as 0-5, 6-9, 10-13, and 14+. Some of their research results partially collapse these four groups however, making it difficult to compare and contrast mothers and fathers for the same groups. Results indicate that there was little agreement between parents. Mothers and fathers agreed on only one age group as being the most difficult: the adolescent group (over 14). Over 60% of both parents found independence issues predominated as conflicts. Parents demonstrated very little consensus on which other child age groupings they found the 'best'. Fathers found the 6-9 group best, and found the 10-13 age group attractive also. They gave as reasons, that they appreciated their children during these times as due to the child's eagerness of learning, or due to the developmental stage of the child. It is significant that Pasley and Gecas studied a group of families considered 'normal', or 'average functioning'. These parents studied were from an original total of 208 families, drawn from a general population. As is common in research on mothers and fathers, fewer fathers participated in the study. See the section on families and stress for research on non-normative transitions and experiences, later in this chapter. 2.5 Fathering and the Experience of Fatherhood 2.5.1 Historical Background Fathes, and their role as co-parents over the life of their children, have been studied very sparsely. For many years, mothers only were studied, and their influence on children's growth and development examined in some detail. Lamb (1979, 1981), foremost in the field of researching the father's role, notes that in regarding parent-infant relationships, "... theorists leapt to the unreasonable inference that mothers were exclu- sively important influences on children's personality development" (Lamb, 1979, p.938). Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 38 As previously discussed in Chapter 1, the common myths regarding parenting and the roles of mothers and fathers in influencing the growth and development of their children have resulted in somewhat biased research. With a very narrow view of the role of the father in the child's life, studies of father's influence have tended to focus mainly on how effective the father is as a role model of masculinity, achievement, or career committment. Since it was considered axiomatic that fathers did not 'nurture', their role was seen as that of an instrumental, career-oriented parent. That fathers might nurture in a very different way from mothers had not been exam- ined until very recently. The very unique and rich variety of skills and interaction styles of fathers with their children have been little observed and described (Lewis, Feiring & Weinraub, 1981; Mackey, 1985). As pointed out by Lamb (1979), research has noted that fathers interact with infants in very different ways than do mothers, whether or not the mothers were present at the same time. After early infancy, the most characteris- tic interaction of father-child, is that of play, while mothers continue to maintain their typical primary responsibility for child-care activities. Traditional sex-roles continue to have an observable difference in that it is noted that, in general, fathers handle small infants and young children in active play and, that mothers interact with the same age group in less-active, nurturant ways. Such differences in interactions would be expected to have repercussions on children's growth and development in different spheres of life. 2.5.2 Father as socialization agent Over the past decade, researchers have determined that fathers experience significant emotional upheaval during the transition to fatherhood (Beail & McGuire, 1982), and that they form significant emotional bonds with their new infants (Lamb, 1979) This focus on fathers' experiences, as separate from mothers', forms a new foundation for a broader concept of what constitutes 'fathering'. Cummings (1976) points out that Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 39 changing social values regarding appropriate and valued roles of men and women, has made the experience of fatherhood more salient for men in today's society. He notes that contemporary fathers appear to be much more eager to take an active role in the rearing of their children. With the advent of the dual-career family, both men and women have had to make changes in the ways they relate to each other as marriage partners as well as in the roles of parents. It is still uncertain what outcomes may be expected due to these different social trends. Researchers theorize that such changes will have far-reaching influences on the development of children in areas of academic achievement, cognition, morality, gender role characteristics, and so on. Since children needed nurturing for growth and development, and mothers were seen as the nurturers, it was axiomatic that (a) fathers could not nurture; (b) fathers did not nurture; and (c) therefore, fathers clearly could not significantly influence their children's growth and development. These myths have been slowly but surely eroding under the weight of research evidence refuting all three axioms. Lamb (1979, 1981, 1987) has clearly delineated not only that fathers have a significant influence on children's development, but that their influence is on somewhat different areas of their children's life, in comparison to mothers', and that they do so by somewhat different parenting styles and interactions. Current research on fathers, and contrasting mothers' and fathers' psychosocial assets, has attempted to tease out the unique characteristics and functions of fathers' parenting and, the outcome results of those on the developing child. Where fathers have been studied, it has sometimes been through second-hand reports from mothers, as pointed out in Murphy's literature review (1982) of parents of handi- capped children. Such second-hand reports of fathers do not provide researchers with the objective data necessary for comparison studies. An example is found in McKinney and Chapter 2. R E V I E W of the LITERATURE 40 Hocutt's (1982) study regarding parenting disabled children, where mothers' reports of fathers' behaviour were solicited and accepted, since there was apparently "no . . . reason to suspect the accuracy of answers mothers gave" (p.47). This belief seems to stem partly from the popular notion that only mothers know what each individual is doing within the family system. A number of such popular beliefs are being severely eroded as researchers become more aware of the need for more objective and unbiased study. Lamb, as well as others in the field (Beail, 1983; Hartup, 1979) point out that there has been excessive study of the mother-child relationship, and that as fathers become recognized as significant socialization agents, more will be learned about the particular role of fathering and the father's influence on the child. In the very recent past, it was believed that fathers brought only very specific social influences to their interactions with their children, as discussed earlier in describing the instrumental, career-oriented traditional function of fathers. However, it makes eminently greater sense to envision fathers as having overlapping roles as socialization agents in their children's fives, as described by Lamb in his article on paternal influences (Lamb, 1979). It seems that the importance of fathers' redundancy was not recognized, since total interaction time with their children was (and is) often dramatically less than the time of mothers with children. A number of theorists in the field of fathering point out that it is not simply the quantity of interactive experiences that is important, but the specific and characteristic quality of those interactions which makes them salient in the lives of their children (Cochran & Brassard, 1984; Radin, 1981; Rapoport, Rapoport &; Strelitz, 1977). The family has long been recognized as one of the most important and influential systems responsible for the effective socialization of children (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). Parents do have a great deal of influence over the social contact their children have with other influential institutions, such as the school, neighbourhood, teachers, relatives, Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 41 health care workers, and so on (Hartup, op.cit.). As described earlier, it is important to note that the child's social world consists of many worlds or ecological systems, and that the microsystems of father-child, mother-child, and child-child, are embedded within the family system. Predominantly dyadic interactions have been researched, mainly the as- sumed most-significant mother-child dyads. Presently, father-child dyads are beginning to be studied in greater detail, adding to our knowledge of how fathers and their children interact. However, it should be noted that the ages of the children is predominantly from infancy to pre-school age (Beail, op.cit.). 2.5.3 Father—absence As several researchers have pointed out, most of the information we have on the influence of fathers on children's growth and development has been largely through studies of father-absence. This has been particularly true in respect to children older than pre- school age. It seems clear that children in a father-absent home do appear to develop with several prominant differences in gender role characteristics, where boys tend to demonstrate more androgynous characteristics; and in academic achievement in several areas such as mathematics and abstract thinking, where girls appear to do particularly less effectively, although boys also appear to achieve somewhat below the norms cited for boys in father-present homes, (Lamb, 1979,1981; Lewis et al, op.cit., Radin, op.cit.). It is necessary to caution, however, that there are more differences in the homes than the one variable of father-absence. Financial stresses are often very significant in the single parent (mother) home. There is often reduced social support in daily activities where the mother is the only parent present (Thoits, 1987). Frequently, the mother is working full-time, with her child either in day-care faculties for a portion of each day, or being responsible for self-direction after school. These single mothers also may need and request assistance from their child(ren) in day to day chores and routines. Thus, Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 42 such children may experience daily life in significantly non-typical ways. All of these and other factors may have some influence on the reported outcome studies of children in father-absent homes. Little direct research has been done on fathers' presence and styles of interactions, their unique parenting behaviours, as influences on children's development at specific developmental stages, or in specific spheres in their life (i.e., physical, emotional, aca- demic, moral, career or work orientation, and so on). What constitutes fathering is still somewhat a mystery, particularly for fathering of post-toddler aged children. 2.5.4 Fathering across cultures Through extensive cross-cultural sociological observations, Mackey (1985) and his asso- ciates studied the father-child bond through detailing father-child interactions in public. They analyzed approximately 49,000 dyads from 5 continents, studying very different cultures (nomadic, farming, hunting, city-dwelling). The overwhelming result was that there were surprisingly common descriptions of the active caring relationships of fathers with their children in the public areas observed. As discussed by Lionel Tiger in the Foreword to Mackey's book, Mackey and his associates "... provide genuinely new information about how men act when they are fathers as well as very useful speculation about how this works and what its significance is for the development of a good human biology. ... It turns out that men appear to enjoy having children and being fathers and they spend appreciable amounts of time with them and teach them what they can about how to be grown up" (p.ii). There was an impressive similarity of expressed behaviour "Behavioral consistency Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 43 was found in the face of cultural variability" (p.171). This was an unusual and ambitious study, detailing the various common threads of what public behaviours and interac- tions constitute the role of fathering across divergent cultures. Fathers appeared to like children, and appeared to enjoy interacting with them in a variety of ways: play and rough-housing, purposeful explanation and teaching, supporting when tired, assisting with feeding or drinking, hugging, comforting when child hurt or unhappy, and so on. Both nurturant and instrumental behaviours were noted. Additionally, all behaviours were unobtrusively observed in the public arena: crowds, parks, shops, local markets, and so on. Most of the children studied were apparently normal and under 10 years of age, and the fathering behaviour observed may be specific to this age group, one requiring more active and varied parental attending than might be expected with older children. A very recent book edited by a noted specialist in the field of fathering, Michael Lamb (1987), contains numerous articles and research reports on what constitutes typ- ical fathering behaviour from contributors in many different countries. Although these contributors were not looking for similarities of what is fathering behaviour, they are adding to the very sparse literature on the quality of the complex interaction between father and child. 2.6 Families and Stress Responses As has been noted previously, (Hartup, op.cit.; Hock, McKenry, Hock, Triolo &; Stewart, 1980; Rapoport, Rapoport & Strelitz, op.cit.), the amount of data generated on the experiences of fathers of school-aged children is quite limited. Concerning what is known about the emotions, actions, perceptions, and attitudes of fathers of mildly handicapped children, there is even greater scarcity. The experience of parenting a mildly handicapped child is considered to constitute an unexpected stress, one which has challenges to both Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 44 mothers and fathers. As indicated earlier, where data on fathers of mildly handicapped children was collected from mothers, automatic biases were unfortunately built into the results, making it difficult to compare and contrast their experiences. Stressors, the stress and coping process, the role of social interactions and, social support have been discussed earlier. In the following section is reviewed what is known about how families react to and cope with the stress of having a mildly handicapped child. Most of the work cited has been drawn from the field of mental retardation (moderate to severe), or chronic handicaps. As well, the stages of loss model, developed by Kiibler- Ross (1969), is discussed in relation to the families' responses to the unique and stressful experience of recognition that one of their children has a particular 'disability'. Other parental response patterns observed are also discussed. 2.6.1 P a r e n t a l R e s p o n s e P a t t e r n s S tage m o d e l s of L o s s There appear to be several related models in the family research literature addressing the apparent syndrome of emotional responses parents evince on learning that one of their children is 'disabled' or dysfunctional in some way. One, a stage model, is based on the work of Kiibler-Ross (1969) on patients' emotional responses to the diagnosis of terminal illness. Her model characterizes the individual's responses as passage through five stages, not necessarily in this specific order: anger, bargaining, denial, depression, acceptance. Note that acceptance is a final stage wherein an individual comes to a resolution of inner conflict (emotional, psychological), and is able to move on to the next stage in life: death. An individual appears to experience these stages as a normal process of responding to the experience of loss of one's future. In the fields of mental deficiency or educational dysfunction, the loss may best be described as loss of the notion of their 'idealized child': Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 45 or, the loss of the parents' dreams and fantasies about their child. In many ways, these stages appear to provide a normative frame of reference to the highly emotional responses that some parents express, sometimes apparently out of proportion to the actual degree of disability of their child. That is, it is not the degree of disability that is the stressor, but the significance of the disability to the parent or, the meaning of being a parent of a non-typical child. Additionally, families may find that they need to respond in a variety of unexpected ways to the apparent needs of their disabled child. This reciprocal nature of the parent-child relationship is generally ignored in the research literature. Much of the focus has been on the direct influence of the parent on the child, the style of parent interaction, attitudes, and so on. However, the nature of the shaping response of the parent to the individual child's emerging personality and temperament has yet to be determined clearly. Yet, parents provide many anecdotes concerning their trial-and-error methods of caring for their different children, and of learning 'what works for one, doesn't work for the others'. That some children with learning difficulties may have been difficult babies to parent has been indicated in the research literature (Fewell & Gelb, 1983; Seligman, 1983; Spacone & Hansen, 1984). It seems relevant to begin longitudinal studies on the complex interactions of parents and their infants/children. Assessment of the normal developmental needs and tasks of the family members as well as of the family unit would be clearer to analyze. Normal or typical development of the child over time refers to the parental (social) expectations of common milestones and experiences demonstrated by children within their ecological environment. It is non-typical to have a child who has significant difficulty in achieving base-line academic standards, or who actually fails to read, print, and/or do basic mathematics. Such functional skills are required by all members of our modern society, particularly given the social imperative for all to be independent of family at maturity (usually, 21 years). Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 46 In the fields of mental deficiency (Crnic, Friedrich & Greenberg, 1983; Miller, 1968; Price-Bonham Sz Addison, 1978); sensory impairment, such as hearing deficiencies (Greenberg, 1983; McNeil & Chabassol, 1984); and of learning disabilities, (Berry & Zimmerman, op.cit.; O'Hara, Chaiklin & Mosher, 1980), researchers postulate from three to five stages, loosely based on Kiibler-Ross' stage model. For example, Miller (op.cit.) suggests three stages of adjustment: (1) shock and disorganization, with de- nial of the problem, (2) sorrow and ambivalence, with some anger expressed, and, (3) reintegration, with acceptance of the reality of the problem. It is suggested that fami- lies might go through these stages in order (as given above), requiring different kinds of support functions from others as each stage is experienced. Eventually, the family seems to achieve a kind of stability, and more normal or typical family functioning may be observed, without the emotionality and disorganization characteristic of the early stages of response. Chronic sorrow Described by Olshansky (1962), a second model of parental responses to having a child with a handicap, was termed chronic sorrow. Parents are not seen as experiencing spe- cific emotional stages in a progression to acceptance or resignation, but their various emotional responses are seen as coming from a constant background of sorrow. While these emotional responses may be more or less prominent at particular times, Wilder et al (1981) found that the majority of parents affirmed experiencing a constant chronic sorrow or sadness, rather than experiencing a series of emotional stages. Chronic sorrow thus describes family difficulties and parental emotional responses as a chronic sadness to a never-ending tragedy (of whatever magnitude), as perceived and experienced by par- ents. Stages of emotional responses are not considered useful models of parental response patterns, since the event (knowledge of a handicap) does not 'resolve'. This is extremely Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 47 different from the terminal illness/death event studied by Kiibler-Ross (1969), the basis of the stage model of loss responses. In chronic sorrow, the chronicity of the emotional response implies that a resolution of the emotional crisis does not (or can not) occur. The parents therefore require support and understanding for the reality of the tragedy they live with, on an ongoing basis, and at various times in the child's life. That there is no resolution of the parents' responses is considered a normal, not a neurotic, reaction to a traumatic event. Several contemporary researchers believe the stage model to have limited relevance in non-terminal illness situations such as chronic disability, (Berry & Zimmerman, 1983); Wilder et al, 1981) For some parents, however, it may provide a useful framework for describing how parents may be responding to their child's diagnosis of a handicap. For other parents, the concept of chronic sorrow may be more relevant. Re-experiencing grief model A third model of parental responses overlaps with Kiibler-Ross' stage model (Berry & Zimmerman, op.cit.; O'Hara et al, op.cit.). This model suggests that families and parents (as individuals) continue to re-experience various emotional responses in relation to the non-achievement of developmental milestones by their child. These emotional responses are considered to be related to those described in Kiibler-Ross' stage model. As develop- mental milestones are not reached, there will be an increasing discrepancy with typical chronological age expectations. Parents appear to re-experience sequences of grieving stages once again. The apparent impetus for emotional response is rooted in the family life-cycle tasks being impeded by the child's continual re-emerging developmental delays in any number of contexts: social, academic, physical, and so on. In summary, it seems clear that parents experience strong emotional reactions upon Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 48 recognizing that they have a child with a chronic handicap. This appears so, regardless of the apparent severity or degree of handicap. Some of the response patterns observed and described by researchers have been noted to constitute several stages of response, culminating in a degree of reorganization or acceptance of the reality of the problem. Other researchers do not agree, indicating that parents' ongoing emotional reactions are natural and chronic responses to the loss they experience daily: the loss of their idealized child. 2.7 Adaptive Coping to Stress "[It is] ...not change itself, or its absence, that is necessarily stressful, but the personal significance of change or no-change, which in turn depends on the person's history, stage of life, and overall present circumstances" (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p.309). As can be seen, the underlying assumption in the above discussion of parental response patterns is that facing a handicap in one's child is a painful, stressful situation for parents. It is also, an unexpected event: out of step with the natural order of a child's normal development. It is important to note that in assessing and observing the expressed stress, it is not the stress event per se that is most important, but the significance or meaning attributed to the event by an individual. A number of variables may be involved in how any one person views the experienced event, such as: education, past experience, personality characteristics, social status, family resources, and others. In terms of adaptive coping with the stress, these individual variables are highly significant to our understanding of how it is that people with apparently similar stress events demonstrate a continuum of coping responses. In this section, coping as a process is discussed in relation to parents' Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 49 experiencing a stressful life event: diagnosis of a significant educational disability in one of their children. The literature is reviewed in order to determine possible coping response patterns observed; and, particularly salient aspects of the coping process for fathers. Social support-seeking behaviour is recognized as only one possible response considered 'adaptive coping' by researchers in the stress and coping field. 2.7.1 Components of the coping process Researchers have attempted to define what constitutes adaptive coping behaviours or attitudes towards stress. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) define coping as process-oriented, i.e., "...efforts to manage [those] taxing demands or situations apparently exceeding one's resources" (p.150). Clearly, there is a very important cognitive aspect to the pro- cess of coping, considered to be primary to adaption to the stressful life experience(s). As McCubbin, Joy, et al (op.cit.) theorized, coping behaviours should satisfy several demands in order to be considered to be 'adaptive' coping, as seen in the summary below (p.865): 1. actions taken should reduce the presence of various vulnerability factors (personal, environmental); 2. behaviours should reduce or even eHminate stressor events and their attendant hardships; 3. actions taken should strengthen and maintain family resources (strengths), thereby protecting from harm or from disruption; and, 4. coping behaviours should ideally involve the process of actively influencing the environment by doing something to change the social circumstances. Chapter 2. REVIEW of tie LITERATURE 50 As discussed earlier, much literature on family functioning has focussed on families ex- periencing normative transitions. Limited research has focussed on the area of family responses to non-normative transitions experienced. How particular members of the fam- ily respond to non-normative experiences is still unclear, although several researchers are beginning to focus on other than the handicapped member of a family (Seligman, 1983; Spacone &; Hansen, 1984; Tavormina et al, 1981; Vadasy et al, 1984). The pro-active behaviours (both cognitive and concrete) identified above (McCubbin, Joy et al (1980) may provide some specific guidelines for assessing how a member of a family accesses both internal and external resources in order to cope with the experienced stress. 2.7.2 Resources /' ' '\-[> External resources of the individual involve a variety of available variables in the coping process: family members, extended family, school personnel, neighbourhood character- istics, daycare provisions, secure satisfactory employment, governmental policy, and so on (Bronfenbrenner, op.cit.; Shumaker & Brownell, 1984). Such external resources, or ecological systems, are of course interactive and influential in various ways as the indi- vidual attempts to assess the stress being experienced and the most appropriate effective actions to take. The interplay of internal resources of the person, and external resources available to and influencing the person experiencing stress, appears to be complex. Some of the specific internal resources have been studied individually, in an attempt to ascertain the most notable variables affecting adaptive coping to stressful life events. Theorists such as Cobb (1974, 1976), Lazarus and Folkman (1984), and Moos (1984), recognize that the individual frame of reference is the most significant set of variables in the stress-coping- health relationship process. These variables may be described as internal resources of the individual, and include past history, personal skills, self-esteem, education or training, Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 51 personal philosophy, and so on. Theorists in the area of stress and coping acknowledge that personal and individual resources of the individual are extremely important towards adaptive coping behaviours. What is missing is an analysis of the relative importance of specific personal internal resources in the coping response. Additionally, measures which might allow one to assess the relative strengths of an individual's internal resources are difficult to develop, depending as they do on (mainly) subjective information. Thoits (1986) has developed a useful model to describe the interactive relationship between stress sources and modes of altering stressors. 1. stress sources, stressors: • the situation or event itself • one's emotional reactions to the situation 2. modes of altering stressors: • behavioural responses, activities • cognitive modes Such a model is similar to Lazarus and Folkman's (op.cit.) description of coping as a process involving two areas of primary focus: emotion-focused coping, wherein one's efforts are aimed at managing one's emotional responses to the problem; and problem- focused coping, wherein one's efforts are aimed at altering or managing the problem (which is seen as causing the distress). Cobb (1974) believes that the distress experienced may be in part caused by a con- comitant sense of decreased competence (to manage the stressful event), and therefore decreased sense of self-regard or self-esteem. It seems important to recognize that some Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 52 events are generally perceived as uncontrollable events, such as accidents causing dis- ability, social or economic climate keeping wages low, earthquakes, and others. Such un- controllable events may be both experienced and processed differently than those which might be perceived as being under one's control, such as choosing to divorce or to change one's job, moving one's home, upgrading one's education, and so on. A sense of personal mastery seems important in cognitive appraisals both of one's stressful circumstances and of one's resources, and may well be a primary cognition in the coping process. In a similar vein, Moos (1984) theorizes that there are three parts to the coping domain: 1. appraisal-focused coping: cognitive attempts to define the meaning of the situation or event to oneself; 2. problem-focused coping: taking actions to modify or to eUminate the source of the stress, or to deal with the tangible consequences of an undesirable problem (stressor); 3. emotion-focused coping: those responses whose primary function is to simply man- age the affect or emotional state aroused by the stressful situations. Note that all three components of coping would be believed to be interactive. As pointed out by Mederer and Hill (1983), it is important to note that there are two very important dimensions to the stressors, which will affect one's responses: time, the experience of a stressor longitudinally; and, control, the perception of stressors and their management as being under one's personal control. Similarly, Scheier, Weintraub and Carver (1986) pointed out that stressful life events seen as uncontrollable may elicit somewhat different responses. Chronic stressors may be expected to bring forth or demand different coping patterns, in contrast to those needed by the experience of acute stressors by an individual or family. Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 53 Scheier, Weintraub and Carver (op.cit.), studying college students' experience of stress and coping strategies used, found that individuals demonstrated different clusters of adaptive coping behaviours. An important factor in differentiating these clusters of behaviours was related to whether the stressful life events were seen as controllable or uncontrollable. They then grouped the subjects into two subgroups, which they labelled optimists and pessimists. The response set termed optimists was positively associated with a behaviour pattern described as acceptance or resignation. This subgroup did not tend to use those behaviours which included focusing on their feelings, distancing from others, or use of fantasy (escape) strategies — all behaviours which were considered to be somewhat maladaptive in coping. In general, Schier et al (1986) described a cluster of adaptive coping responses involv- ing: 1. social support-seeking behaviour; 2. positive reinterpretation, i.e., refraining the situation, themselves, or both; and, 3. problem-focused coping behaviours, i.e., active behaviours clearly directed towards resolving the stress experienced. Gender differences were described and noted, in that problem-focused coping (referred to as instrumental behaviours) tended to describe men's general coping behaviours. It was noted that for men, optimism was positively associated with social support-seeking behaviour, but was not for women. That there are gender differences in general coping behaviours has been described earlier in this chapter. This research was able to delineate a cluster of response patterns identified as adaptive coping behaviour, for the particular group of persons studied, college students. Chapter 2. REVIEW of the LITERATURE 54 2.8 Summary In summary, stressful life events demand a variety of coping responses from individu- als, relating to the individual appraisal of the stressor, the degree of personal control in the situation, the attribution given to the stressor, external and internal resources, perceptions of support, and behaviours and cognitions aimed at reducing or managing the stressful event over time. From the research literature reviewed, it appears that for fathers experiencing a non-normative stressor, adaptive coping would appear to involve social support-seeking, a strong marital relationship, and instrumental activities both within and outside the family, and particularly involving their formal social network members, i.e., problem-focused behavioural responses. In regard to fathers of school aged children with a diagnosis of learning disability, the particular pattern of support seeking by fathers is not clear. Nor is it known which particular professional groups fathers appear to utilize, or prefer to seek out, in relation to their concerns about their child. As discussed earlier, the unavoidable lateness of the diagnosis and the ambiguity regarding the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of this invisible handicap are all factors which may make it more difficult for fathers to recognize which would be the most adaptive behaviour patterns to utilize. How to tease out these patterns is the focus of this exploratory research study, further described in Chapter 3. Chapter 3 M E T H O D O L O G Y 3.1 Purpose of study 3.1.1 Background The purpose of this study is to ascertain the help-seeking behaviour of fathers of children who have been identified with apparent learning disabilities. As described earlier in definition of terms, these children met the entry criteria for the specialized diagnostic and remediation centres. The focus will be on both determining and clarifying the social support-seeking patterns of fathers to determine significant patterns of behaviour. Additionally, the researcher is interested in the perceived influence of two intimate groups, Family, and Friends, in mediating the stress experienced by the father. These two categories of persons constitute the most powerful groups within the father's infor- mal social network. They have the potential to offer supportive functions, or be available if/when the father makes his needs known. On the other hand, as pointed out by Hirsch (op.cit), Pearlin and Schooler (op.cit.), and Thoits (1986), these social groups may con- stitute a major source of negative or counter-productive influences. This is most likely to happen if the informal social group expresses norms of behaviour, or values about parenting or schooling (and so on), which are not likely to meet the best interests of the child and/or the father. 55 Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 56 3.2 Research Procedures 3.2.1 Selection of Subjects There are two specialized elementary education centers in Vancouver which provide in- tensive evaluation, testing, and development of individual education programmes for children suspected of having severe learning disabilities. These are called "Teaching and Evaluation Centres" (T. & E. Centres), and were the source for appropriate subjects for this research project. 3.2.2 Criteria for Selection of Fathers The fathers in the research study were selected according to specific criteria, as follows: • from intact, two-parent families; • both parents were birth parents of the (2 or 3) children in their family; • only one child in the family was identified as having learning disabilities; • the focus child was between the ages of 8 and 12 years of age at time of initial placement in the specialized centre; • English was the only language in the home; • there were no cross-cultural influences such as parents having emigrated from other countries (eg., England, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, etc.): thus, the fathers thus, the fathers would be most likely to reflect mainstream English-speaking Canadian culture. Such criteria were deliberately stringent in order to eliminate many confounding vari- ables in studies of parental behaviour. Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 57 3.2.3 Procedures Identified fathers were mailed a cover letter from the head teacher of their child's specific T. & E. Centre (Appendix A), along with a contact letter from the researcher (Appendix B) explaining the study and requesting their voluntary participation. Head teachers were given the criteria for selection, and screened their pupil lists for the past 3 years for apparently appropriate fathers. The letters were mailed from the T. & E. Centre directly. H willing to be involved in the study, volunteer fathers were then contacted by tele- phone to determine whether they do meet the criteria, to further explain the study, and to set up an appointment in their home at their convenience. Those fathers who met the selection criteria and were willing to be involved signed an informed consent form (Ap- pendix C) at the appointment. During the appointment they were informed in greater detail of the nature of the study, the confidentiality of their responses, and the availability of results to them after the study is complete. Subjects were informed of their right to refuse to answer any questions, or to with- draw from the study at any time for whatever reason, without jeopardizing their child's educational placement or educational programme in any way. Demographic information (Appendix D), two 20-question scales (Appendices E,F), and a Q-sort of 41 items (Appendices G,H) were the measures utilized in the research study. After the fathers completed these measures, opportunities were made to debrief each parent. This allowed the researcher to gather further relevant information, as well as allow the fathers to gain maximum information and learning from the experience. Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 58 3.3 Significance of the Problem Researchers in the field of learning disabilities speculate that approximately 1-2% of the population of school children may be diagnosed as manifesting learning disabilities (Rewilak &; Janzen, 1982). This figure is used by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Division of Special Education, in their Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines (1985). Since it is recognized that the diagnosis and referral of a child with a handicap such as learning disability constitutes a stressful event in a family (Faerstein, 1981; Fewell &; Gelb, op.cit.; Murphy, 1982; Seligman, op.cit.; Shulman, 1986), it appears clear that professionals have an important role to play in assisting families in ameliorating the stress they may be experiencing as a result of the diagnosis of a handicap. When families experience overwhelming stressors, or develop dysfunctional patterns of responding to the situation, then the costs to the individual child, the family, to the school as well as to the community at large, may be considerable. For example, one consistently reported finding in regard to the social cost of learning disability, is that a relatively high percentage (from 40 - 80of young institutionalized offenders demonstrate serious learning difficulties, (Koopman, 1983; Murray, 1976). Additionally, the learning disabled young adult may find the experience of employment very discouraging in this relatively competitive employment world; and have repeated periods of unemployment (Hansen, 1986). That such children may be somewhat difficult to handle effectively in the family, as well as in school and in the community, has been discussed in Chapter 2. One may assume that a distressed parent, in particular a distressed father, would be less able to influence constructively a child who appears to be a source of difficulty in the family. Indeed, although we recognize the importance of a father's influence on his children's academic achievement (and other areas), it is clear that a distressed father would be Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 59 significantly less able to be effective in this role. 3.4 Basic Research Design 3.4.1 Background Four sources of information were gathered and analyzed in the study. The particular information to be assessed had been selected after a thorough review of the literature regarding fathers of handicapped children, parents of learning disabled children, and parental responses to the stress engendered through raising mildly handicapped children. Pilot interviews of a small sample of fathers (of children assigned to a specialized teaching centre) brought out additional concerns. 3.4.2 Demographic Information Firstly, basic data was gathered on the following items: • fathers' employment, • fathers' age, • wives' current employment status, • target child's age, • target child's sex, • target child's birth order, • siblings' ages and sex; as well as brief open-ended questions concerning • fathers' understanding of their children's learning disabilities, and Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 60 • fathers' expectations for the target child. This demographic information was filled out by the father, and is reproduced in Appendix D. Since there is some evidence in the literature indicating a differential influence of fathers on sons' and on daughters' academic achievement in particular areas of study (Lewis et al, op.cit.; Radin, op.cit.), as well as on personality development, and general cognitive development, the sex of the target child and siblings is of note. 3.4.3 Perceived Social Support Scales Secondly, parents completed two short scales developed by Procidano and Heller (1983), titled 'Perceived Social Support - Family' and 'Perceived Social Support - Friends'. These scales attempt to elicit a variety of ways family and friends may be involved in reciprocal relationships of social support, as perceived by the respondent. See Appendices E and F, for copies of these two scales. Throughout the study, these two scales will be referred to as PSS:FAMILY, PSS:FRIENDS. Although used and assessed by other social support researchers (for example, Sara- son, Shearin, Pierce & Sarason, 1987), as yet these two scales have not been reviewed in the Mental Measurements Yearbook (Ninth Edition, 1985). Procidano and Heller found that these two measures "were internally consistent and appeared to measure valid con- structs that were separate from each other and from network measures." (p. 1). The researchers carried out three validation studies on these measures, refining the questions, and examining the usefulness of these measures (Procidano & Heller, 1983). The 20 items for "FRIENDS" yielded an alpha coefficient of .88; those 20 items for "FAMILY" yielded .90. Factor analysis of each scale gave a single-factor result, indicating strong internal consistency. A test-retest reliability of r < .80 was determined in a pretest of Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 61 subjects. These validation studies correlated the two scales with standardized measures of psychopathology and of distress (MMPI, C.P.I., among others). Tardy (1985) points out that these two scales provide a general measure of receipt of support, primarily for emotional-type support. However, some items on the scales do refer to provision of support: both the enactment of support, as well as perceived availability of support. Procidano and Heller's research on family and friend dyad interactions indicated that there were significant differences in the ways that individuals of each group interacted over a topic of concern to the target individual. Behavioural evidence collected indi- cated that individuals with a higher perceived social support from friends, were more verbal and demonstrated lower trait anxiety scores that those individuals scoring low on the PSS:FRIENDS measure. Similar results were shown for the PSS:FAMILY measure. Negative mood states correlated with perceived social support from friends, but not with family. No attempt was made by either scale to ascertain if the respondent is considering only one person, or a number of persons, or different persons for various sections of the scales. It has been demonstrated earlier that individuals with personal concerns select specific friend or family members for the purpose of supportive functions and, in the normal course of events, would naturally have more than one person in mind while answering the scale questions. Results from these two scales were given as raw scores. Each 20-item scale was scored by providing a +1 score for only those items indicative of perceived social support; the don't know selection was not scored. It was possible for fathers to score from 0-20 on either scale. Each scale was scored separately. Some items occurred in both scales, with changes only in the words 'friends' and 'family'; while other items were unique to only one scale. The scales attempted to assess the individual's perception of being supported with statements about the style Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 62 and intimacy level of interaction the individual has with their friends or family members. Many of the phrases used were relatively general, and provided indications of whether the support was perceived as being one-way or two-way. As indicated earlier in the Literature Review, it appears that women's social support interactions are generally of a mutual (two-way) nature. Some items were phrased negatively in order to avoid a set response. This particular pair of scales was selected for a number of reasons. 1. The scales addressed two very important informal network groups, providing infor- mation on the specific concept of the 'perception' of support from either or both. They separated the various supportive functions of friends or family, asking the father to assess his personal relationship with either group independently. 2. Statements on the scales allowed different aspects of social support to be addressed: 'companionship, problem-solving, emotional support, how to do things, advice, moral support', and so on. Such statements accurately reflect theoretical concerns on the variety of social interactions which may constitute social support. 3. The scales have high face validity regarding the concept of perception of social support separate from enacted support. 4. Their face validity made them not only an acceptable task to the fathers in relation to the stated focus of the study, but also an appropriate tool to use for comparisons of perceived support with reported behaviours in regard to friends and family. 5. Since it is widely recognized that not all adults with families of their own main- tain close continuing relationships with their family of origin, the matter of social desirability of responses was not considered to be a problem. 6. Preliminary testing of fathers indicated that they did not find it difficult to respond negatively to these scale statements. Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 63 Each score was then compared with the reported choices (sum of the Q-sort items) of the categories in the Q-sort statements regarding friends and family. This provided a validity check on the responses given for these PSS scales. 3.4.4 Q-Sort Thirdly, a Q-sort was utilized in examining the fathers' reported social support-seeking behaviour patterns. This was the primary tool used in the research. It was expected that the fathers studied might express significantly complex patterns, which could best be analyzed through Q-technique and its related statistical methods. Q-technique allows one to test a theoretical issue by observing and analyzing the pattern of response of an individual in regard to a population of statements interacting with a specific instruction. See Appendix G, for the instructions given in the study, and Appendix H, for a list of the statements used. In Q-technique, the same individual may respond to the same set of statements, with different instructions, thus providing one with a variety of response patterns These patterns may then be correlated and factored allowing the researcher to examine a number of related theoretical questions or concepts. Or, a number of individuals may respond to the same set of statements. The latter is the method used in this research study. 3.4.5 Explanation of Q-Technique Q-technique, as distinct from R-technique, is a qualitative technique which specifically examines and explores the highly personal meanings of items. In an innovative fashion, it explores the associations between an individual and a construct, analogy, or abstractions. Q-sort is the main technique utilized in Q research, which originated with Stephenson (1953), and allows one to examine personal associations in a relatively indirect manner. Theory is involved in three places in developing a Q-sort: Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 64 • by defining the universe of statements initially selected; • by developing certain logical propositions from the theory, and by choosing variable statements which would best put these propositions to test; • by guiding the researcher in the factor solution, indicating what sort of 'facts' to look for, if they exist, according to expectancies. As stated in Stephenson's (1953) text on Q-technique,. "In R, individual differences, with all their assumptions, warrented or not, are basic to all else. In Q, intra-individual "significances" alone are postulatory, replacing the role of individual differences completely" (p.51). It was most useful to utilize Q-technique for the subjective information asked here of fathers in regard to their behaviour. Stephenson (op.cit.) regards Q-technique as particu- larly effective in that it "... provides a systematic way to handle a person's retrospections, his reflections about himself and others, his introjections and projections, and much else of an apparent "subjective" nature " (p.86). The specific technique utilized was, as has been stated, a Q-sort. An individual sorted out a universe of statements (related to the concept under investigation) according to a specific set of instructions. These statements were arranged in a forced sorting into piles of specific numbers of statements (e.g., from 2 to 22 in a pile), reflecting an approximation of a normal curve distribution. In this study, statements were sorted in relation to how each father answered the key statement: When I have concerns about my child, my usual behaviour is to Fathers sorted the possible endings to this statement in terms of whether the choices given were most to least like their usual behaviour. Each pile was given a weighted Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 65 score, from 1 to 9, and the resulting statements' scores were then rank ordered. See Appendix I, for a descriptive table of this procedure. The results were analyzed using Pearson's coefficient of correlation, and by factor-analysis of the profile of scores which was then observed. One factor accounted for 69% of the noted variance, showing a high intercorrelation. The matrix values given by the factor-analysis were then used to weight each subject's profile of scores, to provide Z scores for each statement. Using the Z scores which were thus generated, the statements were rank-ordered from 1st to 41sf. A Z > ±1 was used as a boundary of significance in the rank-ordering. Finally, basic personal data and PSS scores were compared and analyzed in relation to the rank-ordering patterns of the Q-sort, providing greater richness in analyzing the resulting patterns exhibited by the fathers. 3.4.6 Purpose of Q-sort Selection As discussed earlier, it seemed that the use of Q-sort was a particularly useful tool in this study, as it appeared less intrusive or ego-threatening than other more standard tools such as interviewing or projective measures; it was less subject to the variance difficulties associated with self-report measures; it was also very interesting to the subjects, who generally found it enjoyable (Kerlinger, 1964, p.594); and, the individual did not have the concern that he or she was revealing information of a personal and intimate nature. Each statement sorted by an individual interacted with every other statement throughout the procedure, until the subject was thoroughly satisfied with the final Q-sort pattern. As stated by Kerlinger (op.cit.), ... individuals as such are not tested; theoretical singular propositions are tested. Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY 66 ... individuals sort out the cards not so much to test the individuals as to test "theories" that have been built into the cards" (p.589). As described previously, statements used in the Q-sort have been garnered from a variety of sources: intensive focused interviews with several fathers of children with diag- nosed learning difficulties; literature on social support behaviour; literature on stress and coping behaviour of parents of children with minimal or invisible handicaps; and, litera- ture on mothers', fathers' or parents' responses to stress. It was particularly important to include possible selections from both mothers' and fathers' formal and informal social support networks, and support-seeking behaviours. As shown earlier, little is know about fathers' differential responses to having a child diagnosed as having a learning disability. The results of the Q-sort, as well as additional information from the other sources of data utilized, are presented in Chapter 4, with discussion of the significance of the results for this particular homogeneous group of fathers. Chapter 4 RESULTS and DISCUSSION 4.1 Subject Characteristics 4.1.1 Fathers The group of 15 fathers studied had many characteristics in common. Their age clustered around 45 years, with 72% of the fathers aged between 37-46 years. All of the fathers were employed full-time; two, self-employed from offices in their homes. All fathers owned their homes, and would be classified as professionals (middle-management, lawyers, chartered accountants, architect, artist, media consultant, and so on). The wives of this group of fathers split into three groups in regard to their employ- ment: 5 wives were not working (33%) and, of the remaining 10, 3 worked full-time (20%), 7 worked part-time (47%). One of the full-time and one of the part-time working wives worked out of the home in their husbands' businesses. 4.1.2 Target child All but one of the target children in this study were male children, i.e., 93% or, a ratio of better than 9:1. These skewed results were discussed with the two head teachers of the T. & E. Centres, who pointed out that, in general, boys are referred to the T. &z E. Centres for possible placement by a ratio of 5 : 1 over girls. There are several suppositions concerning the preponderance of male children iden- tified as requiring assistance in the medical as well as the educational service industry. 67 Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 68 One suggestion has to do with reported differences in the maturity rates of young boys and girls, boys having been found to be somewhat delayed in relation to girls. These dif- ferences are observable in such areas as learning to read, abstract reasoning, printing, fine motor development, developmental milestones (walking, talking, toilet-training), social development, and so on. Thus, we might expect that there could be more young boys (than girls) identified by teacher or parent as requiring specialized assistance in order to succeed in the classroom. Additionally, it is supposed that parents may experience more intense distress when their male child demonstrates any handicap or difficulty with life tasks, than experienced with their female child. The belief that males must succeed, whereas females can always depend on others (males) for their livelihood, appears to be at the bottom of the second supposition. Which of the two might be the cause of the lop-sided distribution of the sexes cannot be teased out in this study. The facts remain that not only are boys referred to these spe- cialized educational centres more than girls, by a significant ratio, but that the volunteer fathers in this study reflect a higher ratio than expected. The position of the target child in the family was collected, as this variable had unknown effects on the fathers' experience of their child having a significant learning difficulty. Eight (53%) of the boys were the first-born child; 5 (33%) were the younger or second child, two (13%) were the third child. This distribution was not unexpected, in that approximately half the children were first-born, and approximately half the children were younger children. In all cases, other siblings were perceived to be having no school difficulties. Of the total children in the studied families (target children and siblings), there were very few girls: only 4 girls out of a total of 32 children (12%). This skewing of the data towards boys in these families was unexpected, and cannot be explained. It is not known if this familial male-predominance was a significant factor in the study, and is included Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 69 only as descriptive data of the families studied. It is important to note that this small group of volunteer fathers may not be representative. This limitation to the study is inherent in small-n exploratory research, particularly in regard to volunteer populations. 4.1.3 Placement information The interval period between the time the target child was first tested for potential learning disability and the time the child was placed on a waiting list for a specialized teaching and evaluation centre was quite varied. Seven (47%) of the children were placed within 12 months of being tested; three others were placed within 2 years (20%). However, five children (34%) were not placed until more than 3 years had elapsed since the time the child was first tested or assessed as having learning difficulties. Once placed on the T. & E. waiting lists, almost all children were sent to the Centres within 4 months; some, at the next semester period. For one, there was a waiting list period of more than 1 year. The outcome results for the children varied as a result of their having been involved in the specialized educational centres. Eleven (74%) are presently in regular classes (4), or in regular classes with a variable and limited amount of time spent in their school's Learning Assistance Centre (7 children). Four children (27%) are presently enrolled full-time in a specialized educational placement, generally within their school district. All of the children had completed a semester at the T. & E. Centre at the time of the study; the time period between completion and time of this research study ranged from less than one year (e.g., 4 months ago), to approximately 3 years ago. The majority had completed a semester at the Centre within 1.5 years (72%). Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 70 4.1.4 Fathers' understanding of child's difficulties Only one of the fathers was unable to state an understanding of his child's difficulties from either a diagnostic or functional perspective. All 14 others were able to describe their children's educational dysfunction. Their understanding led to two groupings of fathers: a specific diagnostic (medical/professional) label for the child; or a functional and more general description of the child's difficulties. In the first group of 8 fathers, labels given were the following (some fathers gave more than one label): 2 , A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), 3 , [fine] motor planning dysfunction or, poor motor control, 2 , reading disability, and, 3 , short-term memory recall. All the fathers could elaborate on these labels, describing how the child's behaviour or experiences demonstrated the validity of the label. The second group of 6 fathers gave (often more than one) descriptions of the learning disabilities their children demonstrated: 3 , processing verbal instructions or processing information (in general), 4 , difficulties in comprehension of reading material, 3 , organizational problems (so can't get through each step required), and, 1 , immaturity. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 71 As before, all fathers could provide anecdotal evidence to support their descriptive phrases of their children's difficulties. Fathers were also asked what they understood to be the cause or etiology of their children's difficulties. A variety of responses were given, some fathers giving more than one possible cause. Six of the fathers (40%) stated that the cause was unknown. Of the remainder, fathers gave one or more possible causes. Three suggested that the cause was 'congenital' (foetal developmental difficulties), one of which was described as 'birthing stress'. Three felt heredity was the cause, as others in their own or their wives' families of origin displayed similar problems, and one father stated that he had had similar diffi- culties in school. One stated his child's educational problems were due to early prolonged hearing loss leading to poor language development, thus, to difficulties in comprehension of verbal instructions and reading material. Another suggested that diet (food allergies) and general immaturity was the cause of his boy's learning difficulty. And three fathers also described their understanding that their boys' brains were 'wired' differently, so that they processed information much more inefficiently or slowly than did other children. Several of these fathers also described briefly their attempts to find out what 'the problem' was and what the cause might be from questioning professionals (doctors, psy- chologists, educational specialists). All those describing their search for knowledge stated their overwhelming frustration in getting '.. .any kind of answer', believing that the pro- fessionals did not take their concerns seriously, nor take their observations and 'gut feeling' that 'there's something wrong with my child' as valid, reasonable, and worthy of investigation. This anecdotal information was not requested nor pursued in the interview, but was volunteered, triggered by the specific questions on the demographic sheet con- cerning the fathers' understanding of the child's problems. It is included as indications of the stress fathers may experience dealing with this ambiguous invisible mild handicap of their children. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 72 Fathers were also asked whether their expectations for their children had changed 'as a result of learning about your child's learning difficulties'. A small majority of the fathers (8, 53%) said 'NO', and 7 (47%) replied 'YES'. The former group of fathers had 6 children currently enrolled in regular classes with added Learning Assistance Class (L.A.C.) instruction, and two children in regular classes. Their responses may relate to an unstated expectation that with such assistance their children's learning difficulties will be overcome and they should be able to achieve academically. The group of seven fathers who stated that 'YES' their expectations of their child had changed comprised a mixed lot: 2 had children in regular classes; 2, in regular class with some L.A.C. time; and 3, in specialized class placements. All these fathers stated that they felt their expectations were more 'realistic' than before, and that they were more aware of their children's particular strengths as well as weaknesses. They stated their beliefs that there would be no particular point to having any 'pie-in-the-sky' hopes or of forcing children to achieve to an externally-applied expectation, since their children 'were doing the very best they could anyway'. With those statements, they also mentioned that they had positive expectations, and had 'not given up' on their children; i.e., that their expectations had changed was construed as a very positive change for themselves and their children. The breakdown of ages of children showed that all of the 8 fathers who answered 'NO' to having changed expectations were fathers of children 12 and under. Of the seven fathers who answered 'YES" to changing expectations, three were fathers of 13-14 year olds, and four were fathers of under 12 year olds. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 73 4.2 Summary of Subject Characteristics This group of 15 fathers is a relatively homogeneous group of professionals, the majority (10) with working wives, the remainder (5) with non-working wives. They are fathers in primarily two-children families and, unexpectedly, most of the total children (32) are boys (28). A small majority of the children identified as having learning difficulties are first-born boys, whose ages at the time of this study ranged from 8-15, with 65% between 11-13 years of age. In terms of the learning disabilities of their boys, fathers reported that there had been a lag interval between first testing for obvious learning difficulties and final placement on waiting list for specialized educational help. Most were placed within three years (67%); with 47% placed within 12 months. However, a sizable group of children (34%) were not placed for a period of up to 5 years. The majority of fathers (14) expressed an understanding of what their children's dif- ficulties were, and could describe what those difficulties would look like to others. Some of those understandings were diagnostic labels (8 fathers), and others were functional descriptions (6 fathers). Some of the fathers (6) stated that the cause of their chil- dren's difficulties was unknown; while the others (8) related the difficulties to specific causes, e.g., congenital development, heredity, or early hearing loss. Three of the fathers described their own personal learning disabilities as well. Fathers split in two groups regarding their expectations of their children's future accomplishments. Of those eight fathers who believed that they had not changed their expectations, all their 8 children were under 12 years old, and most (6 out of the 8) were currently placed in regular classes with scheduled L.A.C. time. Of the 7 fathers who said that their expectations had changed, three were fathers of teens. Their children were enrolled in a variety of class arrangements: regular class, specialized class, and Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 74 regular class with L.A.C. All seven fathers believed that although their expectations had changed, they were both more cautious and more hopeful for their children, and felt very positive about the realistic expectations they now held. 4.3 Perceived Social Support Scales Results Scores on the PSS:FAMILY and PSS:FRIENDS scales intercorrelated to a moderate de- gree: the Pearson r was .60, p = .010, (one-tailed significance). However, because of the small n, the correlations are not statistically significant. A much larger group of fathers would need to be analyzed in order to assess the importance of the intercorrelations of these two scales. The literature review of relevant research in this area had indicated that perceived support from family and from friends would be experienced independently of each other; i.e., that perceived social support is not dependent on personality charac- teristics, social abilities, or other variables. A ceiling effect would be expected, such that these two scales would be most sensitive to differences in the low to mid range, since the format of the scales provides only 'Yes/No' answers. The 'Don't Know' answer is scored as a 'No'. Therefore, all data from the total group of 15 fathers was Therefore, all data from the total group of 15 fathers was separated into two sets: low scores (0-13), and high scores (16-20) on these scales. Correlations were then performed on the scores for these two subgroups. For those fathers scoring low on either/both PSS scales, the correlation for scores on PSS:FAMILY and PSS:FRIENDS was r = -.41, p = .159 (n = 8). For fathers scoring high on the PSS scales, the correlation was: r = .48, p = .143, (n = 7). Because of the small n of fathers in each subgroup, although the correlation coefficient is somewhat high, this data provides descriptive information only, adding to our understanding of these fathers. Demographic information was compared between the two groups (high Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 75 or low perceived support), but there did not appear to be any particular variable(s) accounting for the fathers' differing scores. Therefore, the Q-sorts of the two groups were also compared for additional clarification. 4.3.1 Comparison of PSS scores vs. Q-sorting results Comparing the weighted scores of the 15 fathers in relation to their Q-sort behavioural categories of "talking with/seeking out Family and Friends", the Pearson r is essentially 0 : —.05, as shown in Table 4.1 above. Total raw scores of the weighted Q-sort items comprising the categories of Family, Friends, were correlated for each subgroup of fa- thers: Low support, and High support, using the Pearson correlation coefficient. As seen Table 4.1: Contrasting Correlations Perceived Support Scales: Family, Friends Low PSS (n = 8) r = -.41 V = .159 High PSS (n = 7) r = .47 V = .143 Total (n = 15) r = .60 P = .010 Q-sorts re: Family, Friends Low PSS (n = 8) r = -.58 P - .066 High PSS (n = 7) r = .42 P = .177 Total (n = 15) r = — .05 P = .428 in Table 4.1, there does not appear to be a high correlation between reported Q-sort behaviours — seeking out friends or family — and perceived social support scales' scores — from friends or family. It would be expected that there might be a moderately high positive correlation between the scales' scores and reported behaviours. The Table above shows that there is essentially no correlation between reported behaviours in regard to one's family and one's friends; a moderate correlation between the two groups for the Low subgroup; and, a moderately high correlation for the two Perceived Support Scales. The results, although not statistically significant, appear to indicate the differences that Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 76 fathers experience in their relationships with these two groups of potential social support. Fathers seem able to differentiate between the perception of support from their friends and family, and their actual (as reported) support-seeking behaviour with these two groups. Note that there was no attempt to critically evaluate the perceived helpfulness of the network. See Table 4.1, which gives the relationships between Q-sort patterns of support be- haviour using family or friends, comparing fathers by subgrouping them on the basis of their perceived social support scores: LOW, or HIGH. 4.4 Q—sort Categories The Q-sort items can be easily grouped into several over-lapping categories of social networks. The statements, or items, were used in a variety of ways. The raw scores for each category were averaged, and compared to determine if other demographic variables were influencing scores, such as child's birth position, age, wives' employment, etc. Sub- groups of fathers' Q-sort patterns were examined and compared, in order to add to our understanding of the response patterns of the various fathers. The importance and rele- vance of various Q-sort items for the fathers could then be made clearer. Several of the most salient categories, and items within those categories, are discussed in the following sections. Table 4.2 lists these subgroup variables, as well as the Q-sort categories. As expected, the fathers in this research study demonstrated a great deal of similar behavioural choices in sorting out the item statements regarding possible support persons in their lives. The key question directing their sort made it clear that the focus was specifically on their concerns about the child identified as having significant learning difficulties. The Q-sorting items were analyzed, weighted, compared with one another, converted Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 77 Table 4.2: Q-sort Categories; Subgroups of Fathers Category (no. of items) Fathers by subgroups: Label Family (3) Friends (4) Spouse (3) Spousal Network (5) School/Experts (8) Intimate Informal (13) Total Informal (28) Total Formal (19) Passive (10) Working, At-home Perceived social support: lst-born, Subsequent Wives' employment: Working, At-home Short lag, Long lag Child's birth position: Target child's age: Interval (lag) time: High, Low Preteen, Teen lst-born, Subsequent Preteen, Teen Short lag, Long lag into a factor array of Z scores, and rank-ordered on the basis of the Z scores. See Appendix J for the rank-order of the 41 item statements. As discussed in Chapter 3, of the 41 item statements. As discussed in Chapter 3, factor analysis demonstrated that there was only one factor accounting for 69% of the noted variance in Q-sorting profiles. The correlation coefficients, and cumulative proportion of eigenvalues, are seen in Appendix K. Those items with a Z score of approximately ± 1 were considered significant choices of behaviour. In all Q-sort ranking analyses performed on the data, the 7 top-ranked and 6 bottom-ranked items generally fell within that range of significance. They are discussed in detail below. Additional irregular items of significance are also discussed in relation to the relevant subgroup(s) reporting that behaviour item. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 78 4.4.1 'Most like' behaviour: Significant Q-sort choices The following were the top 7 statement items sorted by the 15 fathers, rank-ordered on the basis of Z scores > +1. Table 4.3: Significant results: "... most like my usual behaviour is to ..." FINAL RANK Statement # Item stem: 1st 3 share my concerns with my spouse 2nd 1 seek out my spouse 3rd 30 go to my child's teacher 4th 31 discuss them with my child's teacher 5th 41 seek out experts to help 6th 33 go to the school consultants ... 7th 37 go to my doctor for assistance As can be seen by Table 4.3, fathers' 'usual behaviour' was primarily to share their concerns with their wives, and secondarily to actively become involved with the appar- ent experts in the field. This general pattern of reported behaviours was very similar across smaller subgroups as well. Specific items which were markedly higher or lower for subgroups are discussed later. In relation to the concept of social support, fathers described contacting the different professionals for various purposes: seeking advice, dis- cussing plans, assertively (sometimes, aggressively) making their child's apparent needs known and dealt with appropriately, sharing emotional concerns, and so on. Such de- scriptive information was not requested from the fathers but was elicited spontaneous!}1, apparently triggered by specific statement items being sorted. In general, professionals were utilized for specific instrumental purposes by the fathers. As indicated earlier in the literature on fathers' preferred participation regarding the generally indirect role of fathers with a handicapped child, fathers tend to be primarily Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 79 "...paying bills, talking with educators and medical personnel, or providing emotional support to mother and siblings" (Markowitz, 1984, p.120). Results of the Q-sorting of reported behaviours are in line with what has been described in the literature, particularly in relation to fathers of handicapped children. The results are not as strikingly evident with this group of fathers. This may be due to several factors, some of which already have been explored in the literature review, Chapter 2. For example, the results may reflect the influence of a child's marginal or ambiguous handicap on fathers; or, the influence of a handicap defined long after birth; or, the influence of the fathers' difficulties interfacing with educational institutions, in comparison with the medical institutions fathers in the literature were faced with. Parents of physically-handicapped or severely handicapped children generally need to interface with personnel in medical institutions and agencies. This interaction begins at a very young age, often from birth, and continues throughout the young child's early development. In contrast, parents of children with mild, invisible handicaps identified long after birth, generally have little need to access medical personnel, but have a high need to interface with various personnel in their local educational institution. The norms of expected behaviours, of assumed understandings, of congruent values, expressed by the school personnel to the parents can be quite different than those expressed by hos- pital or medical personnel. As mothers generally interface with the various institutions on behalf of their children, they become more-or-less adept at identifying and coping with the differing jargon language, expectations, and roles and responsibilities of specific personnel. Frequently, this has a great deal to do with the mothers' availability at home, in clinics, and during working hours. In general therefore, mothers become somewhat 'expert', or at least familiar with, the institutions' characteristics. The literature review indicated clearly that fathers are much less likely to do so, unless they deliberately choose Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 80 to take on this role. As can be seen from the Q-sort results, a large number of these fathers apparently became highly involved in their children's schooling problems. Several fathers stated categorically that "... fathers should get more involved work is no excuse for leaving it all to the wife!". This awareness that the child's schooling problems were a family concern requiring the fathers' active participation in problem-solving was most apparent in one subgroup: fathers with working wives. This group of fathers (n = 10) reported top ranked behaviour choices indicating they talked with their child's principal, teacher, school consultants, school counsellor, and experts. In addition, they were also likely to seek help by talking with friends, going for specific help to friends and, going to their family, as responses to having concerns about their children. This subgroup of fathers is described in more detail later in the chapter (see Table 4.6). 4.4.2 Irregular 'most like' behaviours Item # 9: talk with my friend(s), was a significant item for two subgroups of fathers. Overall rank-ordering of the Q-sort put #9 into 10th place; subgroups of fathers ranked it from 5th to 14th place, however. Clearly, some fathers (see Table 4.2), found this a very relevant choice of behaviour. Fathers of lst-born boys with learning difficulties ranked this item above: going to school consultants, going to family (another significant item for this group) and, dis- cussing with child's teacher, among others. It is noteworthy that this subgroup of fathers reported utilizing their friends in regard to concerns about their children as 'much like' their usual behaviour. As expected, fathers in the HIGH support subgroup also ranked this item relatively high, in 7th place with Z > +1. The research literature on social networks indicated significant gender differences on utilizing one's friends for support purposes. Specifically, Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 81 the literature found indications that men prefer to turn to their wives for support, and not their friends; certainly not to the degree that women appear to do so. However, this study of 15 fathers indicates that men definitely turn to their wives in regard to their child, but that friends are important choices of behaviour for all the fathers, and particularly for certain subgroups. It is important to take note of the different ranking of the other active-voice item regarding friends, item # 7: go for specific help to my friend(s). This item differs from #9 in that the latter provides a very general behaviour, whereas the former describes purposeful behaviour where a father may have had a specific outcome goal in mind regarding his child. Generally this latter item was ranked in the middle, from 15 - 26 out of 41 items. However, it is ranked relatively high (12th place) by the HIGH support group of fathers. The passive-voiced item #8 (wait for my friends to provide ... support) was con- sistently ranked in the lower third of the rank-ordering for all subgroups of fathers, indicating that it was considered not a usual behaviour choice for fathers. An additional comment on the choices fathers made regarding their friends, is that the relative stand- ing of the two active-voice items varied considerably. That is, the apparent relationship between the two was not stable, with a distance in rank-ordering of from 4 places to 19 places. Thus, it can be seen that some fathers reported primarily talking with their friends, as a somewhat usual behaviour; secondarily, going for specific help to their friends as rela- tively less common behaviour choices made in regard to their concerns for their child with a significant learning difficulty. And, in contrast, it can be observed that some fathers viewed both choices relatively equally, as being 'somewhat like' their usual behaviour. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 82 Irregular choices: Family Fathers sorted the two active items relating to utilizing one's family of origin, (#'s 5, 6), with considerable variation. Item #5, go to my family, is very different from # 6, spend relaxation time with family members. These items attempted to provide fathers with opportunities to indicate the importance of their family of origin in their social support network. Several fathers clarified the notion of 'going to' when their family members were out of province or country to include the behaviours of telephoning or writing, not just physically visiting. This was considered accurate and acceptable reporting of their behaviours for the purpose of this study. In almost all cases, #5 was rank-ordered higher in relation to #6. These two items were significant choices of behaviour for two subgroups of fathers. Fathers whose wives were at-home, and fathers whose target child was lst-born, ranked at least one of these behaviours in the top 7, (Z > 1). Fathers with at-home wives ranked #6 in 7th place, a somewhat unexpected finding. Both items were particularly high for fathers of lst-borns: #5, ranked 7th; and #6, ranked 9th. Interestingly, there was little difference in rank-ordering of these two items when comparing the HIGH and LOW support groups, but there were highly significant differences in rank-ordering when comparing the two subgroups: working and at-home wives, and first-born and subsequent-born children. As discussed previously, #6 appeared somewhat unrelated to the father's concerns, even perhaps demonstrating some overt social-undesirability in fathers' reporting this behaviour. However, several fathers commented on their reasons for sorting this item higher than others, and also that, 'other fathers might not be as honest' as they were. This latter comment on 'honesty' in sorting the various items came up on several items which fathers sorted relatively highly. It appears to indicate that fathers reported behaviours Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 83 candidly, even reporting behaviours which they believed others might criticize them for doing. This appears to strengthen the reliability of the results of this Q-sorting procedure. Fathers of non-working at-home wives ended up with rank-ordering a majority of informal network members in the top 10 rank. They were unique in this regard. Fathers of working wives utilized only 3 items, (ranked 1-2-10); compared to 6 items, (ranked 1-2-3-7-8-10), for fathers of at-home wives. Fathers of working wives reported more 'usual behaviours' in regard to school experts and doctors than in regard to friends and family members. They appear to have taken a somewhat more active role in being in consultation with school personnel, in particular their child's school teacher, counsellor, and school consultants working with their child. One might speculate that the parents in this group of two-career families appear to have negotiated somewhat equally-shared responsibilities in the area of school concerns. This contrasts markedly with the parents of at-home wives, where fathers reported be- haviours relating to spouse (primarily), relaxation with family of origin members, friends, and colleagues, much higher than utilizing school consultants and school counsellor for their child's problems. One might speculate here that this group of parents is demon- strating a more conservative and traditional sharing of responsibilities, where the wife is the primary care-giver and primary liaison parent to the institution of school. Such observations of the Q-sort results appear to support Lamb's (1979) contention that as fa- thers have become more and more involved in the parenting process from birth onwards, one might expect to find this degree of involvement being maintained as the children enter other social worlds outside the family. In summary, overall, it seems that fathers do report that their family of origin mem- bers are significant members of their informal social networks, and appear to provide various kinds of direct and indirect supportive functions. This appears to be most salient for fathers of lst-born boys, and/or at-home non-working wives. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 84 Irregular choices: School Counsellor The school experts item #32: discuss them with my child's school counsellor, was re- ported by fathers as a relatively 'usual behaviour'. However, it achieved statistical sig- nificance with Z > +1 only in the subgroup of fathers of working wives. As described earlier, this group of fathers appeared to be sharing responsibilities in caring for their children. In particular, they appear to be utilizing the school experts Marcovitch, Mac- Gregor k Lonkasek, 1986; McCubbin, McCubbin, Patterson, Cauble, Wilson k Warwick, 1983). category more than any other subgroup of fathers, rank-ordering these active- voiced items from 3-9 (inclusive). The task-orientation of these fathers is quite clear when one analyzes their reported behaviours rank order. This group of fathers most closely resembles the fathers reported by several researchers (Cummings, 1976; Farber, 1959; Goldberg, Marcovitch, MacGregor k Lonkasek, 1986; McCubbin, McCubbin, Pat- terson, Cauble, Wilson k Warwick, 1983). As described in Chapter 2, these researchers characterized the fathers' behaviours as 'instrumental' or 'technical' in nature. Similarly, fathers of subsequent-born children also appeared to have a more task- oriented approach, reporting similarly high behaviours relating to school experts and doctor. The item of school counsellor is rank-ordered relatively highly (9th), approaching significance Z = .90. Item #33, relating to use of school consultants, was invariably rank-ordered as a more 'usual behaviour' than was #32. This makes intuitive sense, as fathers might be expected to discuss concerns about the child's educational difficulties with the most appropriate specialist involved with the child, as perceived by the fathers. This would make going to 'school consultants' more task-oriented than 'school counsellor'. However, it is important to note the significant role of the school counsellor. As a professional teacher with additional training in supportive counselling techniques, this staff member might possibly be regarded as either the parents' advocate or the child's Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 85 advocate within the school system. It appears that fathers were aware that this person could be a source of information, guidance, support, or assistance, and did report going to this professional as 'somewhat like' their usual behaviour. Fathers overall reported discussing concerns with their child's school counsellor as more usual behaviour than was talking with their child's principal or initiating assistance from the School Board. In keeping with earlier comments, it is not surprising to find that fathers of at-home wives reported this item (as well as others) as only 'somewhat' like their behaviour in relation to concerns about their child. 4.4.3 'Least like' behaviour: Significant Q-sort choices As discussed earlier, the 15 fathers in this study reported much similar behavioural choices when sorting out the possible support persons in their lives. The key question, regarding having concerns about their child, provided a clear direction for fathers' re- sponses. Significant 'most like' behaviours have been discussed previously as being those Q-sort statements which, after being factor-analyzed and rank-ordered, had a Z score of > +1, shown in Table 4.3. Similarly, significant 'least like' behaviours are those Q-sort statements which had a Z score of < —1. These are behaviour choices which the fa- thers considered not at all like their usual behaviour when they had concerns about their child. By order of Z scores, the bottom 6 are shown in the Table 4.4. It can be seen at a glance that a group of possible support persons are not accessed by fathers: the majority of distant informal persons. Two other statements are 'passive-voiced' statements, one relating to clergy, and the other to one's neighbour, providing support. Across almost all subgroups of fathers, the bottom 4 items (38th to 41st) remained the 'least like' behaviours reported by all fathers. Variants are described later in the chapter, both by category and by subgroups of fathers. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION Table 4.4: Significant results: ". ..least like my usual behaviour is to FINAL RANK Statement # Item stem: 41st 25 talk with my (a) bartender 40th 27 talk with my (a) waiter/waitress 39th 26 talk with my (a) barber/hairstylist 38th 28 talk with strangers (a stranger) 31th 16 wait for my neighbour to help 36th 39 find that my clergy ... provide ... support Individual Q-sort items (e.g., #39) occasionally demonstrated a high degree of vari- ability in sorting by individual fathers. Such differences are detailed under separate headings. In the following sections, Q-sorting results are described firstly by category of representative support group, and secondly by fathers' subgrouping on specific variables, such as working/at-home wives, age of target child, etc.. AAA Irregular 'least l ike ' behaviours With scores of Z < —1, some items varied from the overall total, several of them being significantly low reports of behaviour when comparing subgroups of fathers. Those items were: [#12:] wait for spouse's family members to provide me with the support I need [#21:] talk with my boss [#22:] spend relaxation time with acquaintances [#38:] go to my clergy . . . for help Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 87 Two of these items are discussed later, in section 4.6.3: boss, and clergy. These two groups of persons were highly variable, showing individual sorting patterns, clearly reflecting the specific quality of relationships that particular fathers experience with these two groups in their formal network. The other two items, # 12, 22, are discussed here. Item #12, relating to a passive expectation of one's spouse's family, was a significant 'least like' behaviour for the HIGH support group, who ranked it 36th out of the 41 items. In comparison, the LOW group ranked it 26th, indicating a slightly higher expectation of support from their spouse's family. Similarly, fathers of at-home wives also ranked #12 higher, in 24th place. Note that the rank-ordering did not approach significance except for the HIGH group; the other two subgroups of fathers mentioned, sorted this item to indicate that it was 'not much like' their usual behaviour. In a related area, spouse's friends were consistently sorted into 'not much like' usual behaviours: rank-ordered 21 - 28. Ranked very slightly higher than spouse's family, it appears that although these members of the spouse's support system are at hand for the father, they are not considered a usual choice of behaviour, i.e., not a significant source of social support. Results were quite consistent when comparing individuals' Q-sorting of these spouse's friends statement items (#13, 14, 15). The latter item, #15, go for specific help to my spouse's friend(s), was consistently ranked somewhat higher than the other two items. Fathers were likely to sort it into the piles midway between 'least like' and 'most like' usual behaviours. Spouse's friends were a group reported as contacted in similar ways as were colleagues and acquaintances. One could thus speculate that the spouse's friends did provide some small measure of social support function to the fathers. It is interesting to note that fathers were more likely to sort #15 higher than #8 (wait for my friend(s) to provide me with the support I need). Passively voiced items were generally sorted quite low (with the exception noted before in regard to spouse), regardless of the category of support persons. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 88 Item #22, spend relaxation time with acquaintances, was a very low choice of be- haviour, being rank-ordered 33nf overall, and ranging from 28 - 37. The HIGH group reported this item as being 'least like' their usual behaviour, ranking it Z7th, with a Z < — 1. Interestingly, the LOW group sorted other items as least like their usual be- haviour, ranking this item 28th, and placing neighbours, clergy, doctor (passive) and boss, below relaxation time with acquaintances. It is unclear why fathers reported that they did not talk with their neighbours or colleagues to a significant degree, but did relax with acquaintances to a slightly higher degree. As we can see, the HIGH support group of fathers appeared to be somewhat more action-oriented than the LOW support fathers, and more task-oriented, reporting that they choose to do those behaviours which would appear to be most likely to be of assistance. The results appear to indicate that fathers did not utilize or access their spouse's family in coping with their concerns about the target child. The literature had not differentiated between the parents' informal support networks, and it was unclear whether fathers accessed their spouse's network. The family network would be expected to be the most significant portion of the spouse's social support, and therefore the most likely contact for the fathers. As we have seen, the spouse is the primary support person for fathers, and it had been argued that fathers' social networks overlapped with the spouses'. That speculation was not borne out in this Q-sort of social support network members. 4.4.5 Passive category In line with the several studies differentiating fathers' use of social networks and apparent preferred instrumental roles (as discussed in Chapter 2), it was expected that fathers would be somewhat unlikely to utilize behaviour described as Passive. Here, the operant Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 89 verbs used in the Q-sort statements are ... wait for, expect, find that ..., as compared to the active voiced verbs: go to, share, discuss, seek out, talk with, ask, etc.. There were 10 item statements in this category. Note that the descriptor "Passive" implies a negative judgement in our culture, most particularly in relation to men's actions. In contrast to this negative notion one could also question the possible relationship between perceived high helpfulness of one's so- cial network and, therefore, decreased (perceived) need to actively seek help from one's support networks. However this might be evaluated, the verbs did not indicate a choice of active be- haviour in relation to the fathers' concerns. These choices did indicate either an expec- tation of assistance, or an appraisal of lack of need to find help, or some other complex interplay of cognitive appraisals and relationships with others. It is not clear what the fathers in this study used as their rationale in ranking these "Passive" items. There were 7 items from informal networks in this category: spouse, spouse's family, spouse's friends, family, friends, neighbour, acquaintances. Three items were included from the formal network also: school personnel, doctor, clergy. In general, the results indicated that fathers did not find these passive-voiced items particularly relevant as choices representative of their behaviour in regard to their concerns about their child. The most notable exception to this trend was item # 2: wait for my spouse to provide me with the support I need. This item was a significant choice (Z > +1) for three subgroups of fathers. (See Table 4.2 for descriptive subgroupings.) The Low subgroup (perceiving low social support from their family and/or friends) ranked this item 6th out of 41. The fathers with at-home, non-working wives, ranked this item even higher: 3rd. This latter group of fathers utilized their spouse (seeking, sharing concerns, waiting for support) decidedly more than any other subgroup of fathers. The group of fathers whose educationally-dysfunctional child was 2nd or 3rd born ranked this item: 7th. Note that Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 90 overall, item # 2 was ranked 8th, with Z = +0.76 (non-significant Z score). One might speculate on why item # 2 was reported to be a relatively significant behaviour by these particular subgroups of fathers. It appears that fathers who perceive themselves as not particularly supported by the family and friends did still utilize their spouses for supportive purposes. Those fathers with working wives did not, as mentioned above, report item # 2 as being highly significant behaviour for them, perhaps reflecting that their working wives were not as available to them for support, as theorized by Antonucci (op.cit.). Those fathers with at-home, non-working wives might very well have held an expectation that their wives had more available time and energy to provide support for them when they had concerns about their child. Thus, it is possible to construe this reported-high behaviour as perhaps meaning: I can count on my spouse for support. As mentioned above, those whose children with learning difficulties were other than first-born, also ranked this behaviour high. The meaning of this behaviour choice for this subgroup of fathers is more difficult to ascribe. The question is raised: Why is it that fathers of 1st-born boys with significant learning difficulties do not appear to wait for or hold as high an expectation of support from their spouses, in regard to their concerns about those children? Note that the two groups of fathers (re birth-position) do not appear to be very different in regard to other variables, except for two items: the child's age (lst-borns, averaging slightly more than 2 years younger than the group of subsequent-born); and, the working wives cross-category: only 16% were working in the 2nd/3rd-born category. 4.4.6 Expe r t(s) category The Experts category of behaviour choices comprised those formal network persons who might be expected to have some specialized knowledge about their child, or about how to Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 91 remediate the problem: child's principal, teacher, school counsellor, school consultants, school personnel (passively-voiced), School Board personnel, and a general group labelled simply as 'experts'. School consultants generally refers to such roles as L.A.C. teachers, school psychologists, behavioural consultants, specialized itinerant teachers, and the like. School Board personnel was construed to mean both Trustees (elected officials), as well as Administrators at the head office. This was reported to be a relatively common behaviour by the fathers. However, certain school personnel were reported more than were others. Going to or talking with certain school consultants and the child's teacher were much more likely to be reported as the fathers' usual behaviour, than was for example, #29: talk with my child's principal. Going to the child's teacher (item # 30), and discussing concerns] with the child's teacher (item # 31) both were very high behaviour choices by all subgroups of fathers. These two items finished in rank-order 3-5: i.e., highly significant 'usual' behaviours. The generic experts item (#41) was also ranked very high: rank-order 4-6. Going to the school consultants working with my child (item #33) was also generally high: fathers ranked this behaviour from 5-7th place. The exception was in the subgroup: fathers with at-home non-working wives, who ranked this item only 13th. In comparison, these fathers ranked more highly interacting with other groups of persons: e.g., family, friends, doctor, spouse's family, and colleagues. In other words, the fathers with non-working wives tended to go to their close informal network and/or their doctor in preference to going to their child's school personnel. As mentioned previously, item #29 (child's principal) did not achieve a significant Z score. Fathers ranked this item 12th overall, with a range of ranking from 9 - 14, when analyzing results of the different subgroups. This is a somewhat surprising result, as the school principal is the prime member of the school-based team. The team meets regularly and addresses the complex needs of those children appearing to be needing Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 92 assistance for their educational difficulties, whatever the cause (emotional, physical, cog- nitive disabilities). Other members of the team are the child's home teacher, and the school L.A.C. teacher; specialists are invited as necessary, in relation to specific children. It appears that the fathers in my study did not talk with their children's school principal about their concerns, to any noteworthy degree. They were much more likely to go to the child's teacher, consultants, or to 'experts', than to go to the principal. One might question the knowledge base of the fathers in regard to the active role the principal could play in addressing the children's learning difficulties. Fathers were almost as likely to report (#34), expecting the school personnel to provide support (passive): ranked 13th overall; or (#35), initiating assistance from the School Board: ranked 17th overall. Contrasting the latter two items one is struck by the polarity of the behaviours: the former being a passive-voiced expectation, and the latter being a relatively assertive or aggressive behaviour in accessing a very high level in the educational bureaucracy. Note the following conspicuous differences: • the group who ranked #35 the highest, was the group of fathers who perceived themselves as having low social support from either family and/or friends; • the group who ranked #35 the lowest, was the group of fathers of lst-born sons with learning difficulties. The descriptor 'highest' refers to sorting the item into the piles that represent behaviours 'most like' the fathers' usual behaviour; 'lowest' would represent those 'least like' their usual behaviour. 4.4.7 Total formal network category One's formal network would constitute those individuals who carry out prescribed roles, within a structured setting (i.e., institution, agency), involving some aspect of specialized Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 93 knowledge and/or power base. In the case of families of elementary school-aged personnel and 'experts' described children, the formal network included the school personnel and 'experts' described previously, plus doctor, clergy, [personal] counsellor, and boss. As described earlier, these individual members of the fathers' formal social network were sorted in a very irregular fashion, representing specific and individual relationships. However, there was a great deal of consensus among the total group of fathers regarding #37: go to my doctor for assistance. This item was rank-ordered fairly high: from 7 - 11th place. Most of the fathers reported going to their doctor as being much like their behaviour in response to concerns about their child. The subgroup ranking this item lowest was the group of fathers of lst-born boys; however, the range difference was minimal. These fathers (of lst-borns) ranked items relating to family and to friends somewhat higher. Individual fathers Q-sorted this item from the pile scoring 4 (little like) to that scoring 8 (very like), indicating a high degree of variability in response patterns. Clergy items #'s 38 and 39 were rank-ordered very low, i.e., least like the fathers' usual behaviour. However, #38 go to my clergy ...for help, demonstrated a high vari- ability in Q-sorting. Fathers sorted it into piles scored from 1 (least like) to 6 (somewhat like), in relation to their usual behaviour. This item is also discussed later, in regard to the highly individual nature of seeking out spiritual assistance for significant stresses in life. The final rank-ordering of item #38 ranged from 25th [non-working wives' subgroup] to 35th, with a rank of 34th overall. These items demonstrate how important it is to analyze not only the rank order of an item, but the variability in Q-sorting of the item by individuals within the group or subgroup being studied. The passively-voiced item #39 was consistently rank-ordered extremely low, with a Z < — 1, in 36th place overall, with a range of ranking from 34 - 36. This consensual Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 94 sorting indicates that, overall, the fathers found this behaviour to be not at all like their behaviour responses. The item relating to personal counsellor (#40) also showed a considerable range of responses: being Q-sorted into piles scoring from 2 (least like) to 7 (much like) their behaviour. The final rank order of this item, with a Z = 0.0 (approximately), was 24th place. The range of Z scores showed a ranking in subgroups of fathers of from 20 - 29. This would indicate that, although used as a behavioural response, it is chosen less often than persons such as school personnel, friends, family, spouse's family, doctor, and colleagues. And it is chosen more often than most passively-voiced choices as (i.e., friends, doctor), as well as, distant informal network members (i.e., waiter, barber), acquaintances, neighbours, boss. The item #21 talk with my boss was sorted from piles scored 1 (least like) to 6 (much like) the fathers' usual behaviour. The variability was apparently dependent either on the fathers' quality of relationship with the boss, or the fathers' knowledge of the boss' specialized experience or training in the field of learning disabilities of special needs children. This item had a rank-order of 31st overall [not like usual behaviour], but varied tremendously. This was particularly evident with the subgroup of fathers regarding the birth position of their child with learning difficulties. The variation in Z scores was approximately —0.80 to > —1, or from 24th to 37th place: i.e., from somewhat unlike [fathers'] usual behaviour, to not at all like their usual behaviour. The following section discusses Q-sort patterns of the fathers, subgrouped as to spe- cific salient variables, as has been shown in Table 4.2. Some of the differences have been discussed in relation to categories of support items, and will be further considered and analyzed as the subgroups of fathers are compared by their Q-sort patterns, and other relevant data. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 95 4.5 B e h a v i o u r C h o i c e s : F a t h e r s ' S u b g r o u p i n g s Several of these statement items have been discussed previously. In this section, are ex- amined those irregular items which have demonstrated a Z score of ±1, when subgroups of fathers have had their Q-sorting patterns factor-analyzed and rank-ordered. The subsequent rankings were compared to the overall Q-sort rank-ordering, to attempt to provide a greater depth of understanding of the fathers in this study. Examining fathers by subgroups, the variant items are discussed for each subgroup. The most significant variable was in regard to how the fathers perceived themselves as being supported by their intimate informal social networks: family, and friends. 4.5.1 S u b g r o u p b y va r i ab le : H i g h , L o w pe rce i ved s u p p o r t There are several significant differences in Q-sort scores when one compares the sort- ing of items of these two groups: those scoring low on PSS:FAMILY and/or low on PSS:FRIENDS, compared with those scoring high. As discussed, the fifteen fathers split into two distinct groups, referred to as HIGH or LOW, (referring to scoring high or low on the PSS scales). Their respective Q-sort patterns were then examined and analyzed. There appeared to be significant "smearing" of the Q-sorting patterns of these two groups. One particularly variable score was the ranking of statement # 2: wait for my spouse to provide me with the support I need. As discussed earlier, this is considered a Passive category statement, but might be as easily construed to indicate a positive expectation as to indicate negative role behaviour. The LOW group ranked statement #2 in 6th place; the HIGH group, in 14th place (out of 41). The placement of this statement in the total aggregation was 8th. It appears that these two groups of fathers had quite differing expectations regarding their spousal support. Highly-supported fathers appeared to choose other behaviours as Ciapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 96 being more important to alleviating their concerns about their child. In particular, the category of 'passive' items was rank-ordered lower by the HIGH group, than by the LOW group of fathers. For example, statement #12 (wait for support . . . spouse's family) was ranked somewhat higher by the LOW group: 26th place, as against 36th place by the HIGH group. As expected, fathers in the HIGH group were apparently more likely to choose behaviours such as go to my family or talk to my friends, than were the LOW group. There are few apparent differences between the two groups in their various demo- graphic characteristics, such as age, child's position in family, and so on. However, the LOW group children do have a tendency to be currently placed in 'special' classes (such as extended learning assistance classes, transition classes, etc.); whereas the HIGH group children were primarily enrolled in regular classes, with scheduled learning assistance as required. This information may indicate an unexpected relationship between severity of ap- parent learning disabilities with fathers' perception of and utilization of support from their friends and families. Unfortunately, no information was gathered from the Head Teachers of the T. & E. Centres regarding the assessed severity of learning difficulties these children presented with, and so there was no possibility to further investigate this apparent relationship. An additional point of interesting data is that the LOW fathers reported a somewhat longer lag period between the time their children were first recognized as having diffi- culties in school and the time they were placed in specialized remedial learning centres. The mean length of time was just under 3 years for the LOW fathers' children, whereas it was just under 2 years for the HIGH group. It appears somewhat paradoxical that this LOW group had children enrolled in special classes, (i.e., with learning difficulties of an apparently more severe nature), yet these same children waited longer to be tested Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 97 and placed in an initial remedial centre. As the numbers are small, it is not possible to generalize this observation, yet it raises questions for further study. Certainly, it would be most illustrative to know more about the kinds and severity of their children's learn- ing difficulties, and the relationship of that information to the fathers' perceived lack of social support from their networks. The wives of these fathers were very similar in regard to working or not working. This data was collected, as the literature had speculated on the support availability of the fathers' primary intimate other. The Q-sort scores for rank ordering the support- seeking behaviour in regard to one's spouse were slightly different for these two groups. The LOW group tended to sort as higher those several items regarding one's spouse than did the HIGH group. Although this was not a marked difference, it did indicate a trend. The item which contributed most to this difference was statement # 2, discussed earlier. These subgroups of fathers (non-working and working wives) are discussed further, later in this chapter. Utilizing one's spousal informal network was, although variable, not significantly dif- ferent between the two groups. The fathers scoring high or low on either PSS scale had very similar sorting scores relating to those items on utilizing their spouses' networks. It appears that the fathers reported support-seeking from one's spouse or spousal network independently and, perhaps, in regard to variables other than the ones analyzed: i.e., low PSS scores, working wives, child's current school placement, fathers' ages, and so on. The literature had indicated that there appeared to be a degree of overlap in social networks between the couple, appearing to contribute to more adaptive coping and more effective utilization of one's social support network. However, it appears that this group of 15 fathers did not identify their use of spouses' networks as being a usual choice of behaviour. In addition, there was no evidence to indicate that the HIGH group also utilized their spouses' networks, as part of their perception of being well-supported by Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 98 their social networks. There was a tendency for the LOW group to be, on the average, slightly younger than the HIGH group (by an average of 4 - 5 years). This was not a marked difference, but was unexpected. It is not known whether this apparent relationship between perceived support and older age may reflect improved social skills of older persons, longer stable marriages, or other unknown personal characteristics that might have a bearing on this observed data. In terms of utilizing experts, fathers of both groups were approximately equal in their choices of going to and/or discussing their concerns about their children. On only one variable was there an important difference: statement # 35: initiate assistance from school board personnel. The LOW group tended to rank this item significantly higher than the HIGH group: #\2th place, as against #27i/i place. Several of these LOW support fathers described their 'initiating assistance' behaviour: threatening to 'sue the School Board ...', 'camping out' in the office of a particular director, writing to school trustees, insisting on meetings, asking for help, and so on. As discussed earlier, it might have been informative to have some information on the degree of learning difficulties that their child had been experiencing. It is unclear whether the LOW group tended to initiate assistance from the School Board since their perceived social support network was inadequate, or because they chose a more direct route for help by going to the 'decision-makers', or their children's difficulties may have been more severe and/or more subtle, or for other reasons unknown. However, what does seem clear is that this group of 'poorly supported' fathers felt that they had to fight at a high level in order to have their child either recognized as requiring help or in being placed in special help centres. It is important to note that more children in the LOW support subgroup of fathers are in special class placement, than those of the HIGH subgroup. As discussed previously, Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 99 the relationship between severity of child's learning disabilities and fathers' perception of support from friends or family, is unknown. Table 4.5: Comparison of salient items: High, Low support fathers Statement Q-sort rank-order # Item HIGH LOW 7 go for specific help to my friends 23 12 9 talk with my friends 12 7 18 seek help from my neighbour(s) 33 23 A significant behaviour difference between the two groups had to do with seeking out help from one's informal network members. The statements which were ranked signifi- cantly lower by the LOW group, are shown in Table 4.5. This information demonstrates that the fathers who scored low on the Perceived Support Scales also consistently chose related or similar Q-sort items much less often than the group of fathers who scored high. This congruence in score and reported behaviour rank-ordering was more pronounced in the category of friends (and neighbours) than in the categories of family and of spouse. The latter two categories are, of course, relating to two most intimate groups of support persons available to the fathers. Summary The slightly younger LOW support fathers ranked behaviour relating to informal social network members considerably lower than did the subgroup of HIGH support fathers. Additionally, the LOW support group appeared to have a higher expectation of support from their spouse. Noteworthy is the data that a larger number of the LOW support fathers' children currently are enrolled in special class placements, and they appear to have experienced a decidedly longer lag time between initial testing for learning difficulties Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 100 to remedial center placement. 4.5.2 Subgroup by variable: Working wives Fathers' were divided into two subgroups: non-working wives, where the wife was at home full-time; and working wives, working generally out-of-the-home, full-time or part-time. Data concerning the fathers, their children, and their characteristic Q-sorting scores and patterns were then collected and examined. There were 5 at-home wives, and 10 working wives. Fathers' ages were similar, as were the target childrens' ages. However, the child's position in the family was very different. In the at-home subgroup, the majority (80%) were first-born children, compared with the working wives' group, where only 40% were first-born. This appears to indicate that a high percentage of first-born children identi- fied with learning difficulties had mothers at home full-time, whereas a majority of the second/third children identified with learning difficulties had mothers working out of the home, either full or part-time. The significance of this information is not possible to ascertain, but is included as descriptive information concerning the families studied. There was little difference between the two groups of children in regard to possible severity of learning difficulties. The interval time re placement in the remedial centre was very similar and, also, the majority of both groups were presently enrolled in regular classes with or without L.A.C. Two categories of item statements varied markedly when comparing these two sub- groups of fathers: behaviours in regard to the school experts available, as well as to their total formal network. The working-wives subgroup of 10 fathers Q-sorted those items as being 'much like' their behaviour. In comparing the means of the two group scores, this difference is quite evident: Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 101 Table 4.6: Category comparisons re 'Working wives' variable Subgroup x s Utilizing school experts: At-home wives 46 2.83 Working wives 50.9 2.7 Formal Social Network: At-home wives 69.6 4.3 Working wives 73.2 4.38 Since the 'Experts' category is subsumed in the category of total 'Formal' network, it is not surprising that the latter is also highly relevant for this subgroup of fathers with working wives. It appears that these fathers accessed not only the school experts, but also other possible experts/professionals in related fields. The formal social network category includes doctors, clergy, and personal counsellors. The research literature had indicated that this category would be an important one for all fathers, as part of their (preferred) 'instrumental' role in the family. The results indicate that those fathers with non-working wives were less likely to use this category than were fathers with working wives. It is necessary to note that the sample of fathers was very small, however, and these results are speculative only. In general, it appears that the subgroup of fathers with working wives tended to per- ceive themselves as being moderately supported by either or both family and friends, and took a relatively active role in addressing their children's significant learning difficulties by interfacing with the various representatives of the child's educational institution. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 102 4.5.3 Subgroup by variable: Child's birth position The fathers were further broken into subgroups based on the variable of the target child's position in the family: first-born, or subsequent (2nd or 3rd). There were 8 fathers in the former group, and 6 fathers in the latter group. In examining the data, there are several items which appear salient to these subgroups. Several item differences are quite marked Table 4.7: Comparisons re variable: Child's birth position Salient Information First-born (n = 8) Subsequent-born (n — 7) Child's age (years): X = 11, 3 = 1.5 x = 13.16, s = 1.47 Mothers' employment: 50% working 16% working Interval time (years): 62% < 2 83% < 2 Current enrollment: 25% regular classes 63% reg. + L.A.C. 12% special classes 33% regular classes 33% reg. + L.A.C. 33% special classes Q-sort, Friends (raw score): Q-sort, School/Experts (raw score): x = 21.25, s = 2.05 x = 47.5, s = 3.54 x = 19.5, a = 1.38 x = 51.35, s = 2.34 when comparing fathers' scores and other relevant demographic information, holding this variable constant, as seen in Table 4.7. The age difference seems to indicate that the first-born children were assessed as needing help at a younger age than were subsequent- born children. In addition, fewer of the first-born children were in special placement after their intensive period at the T. & E. Centre. It is possible that the 'undiluted' attention of the parents resulted in earlier identification of learning difficulties, and appropriate educational assistance at an earlier age than for the subsequent-born children, but this is speculative only. Although the majority of the subsequent-born children with learning difficulties had mothers at home, a higher percentage of these same children were enrolled in special class placement as an outcome of the term spent in the T. & E. Centres. The significance Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 103 of this information is unknown. Questions arise as to the effect of other influential factors or variables: the child's apparent learning disability, severity, lateness of diagnosis, remediation attempts, and so on. As stated earlier, no data was recorded regarding the apparent severity of the child's learning disabilities. Apart from the child's learning disabilities it is also possible that factors such as family dynamics could be responsible for some of the disparity in outcome. The subsequent-born child is born into quite a different 'family' than is the first-born, and after initial emotional adjustments have been made (or not made) by the parents. Certainly it is probable that subsequent-born children may not receive the early attention and recognition of difficulties that the first-born children experience. Two other differences noted in Table 4.7 are the Q-sorts for two categories of items: Friends, and School/Experts. Raw scores were taken for these two categories, and com- pared. Means and standard deviations indicate some differences of note. Fathers of first-born children with learning difficulties tended to sort items re friends higher than did fathers of subsequent-born children; i.e., they were slightly more likely to go to friends with their concerns about their children. On the other hand, fathers of subsequent-born children with learning difficulties were much more likely to go to or discuss concerns with school personnel and general experts, than were fathers of first-borns. This latter difference may be related to the greater experience with the educational system for those fathers with a 2nd or 3rd child with a learning difficulty; i.e., with a typical child initially, these fathers may have a clearer notion of how to access school personnel. This is an intriguing difference, and one which might be very useful for teachers to utilize. Knowledge of the child's birth position may give teachers a possibility of expecting the fathers of first-born children with learning difficulties to need some assistance from the school personnel in defining roles and responsibilities, and in learning how to access school personnel appropriately Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 104 and successfully. Naturally, this is simply one possible explanation, as the numbers were small in this study. 4.5.4 Subgroup by variable: Child's age The variable of target child's present age was one which demonstrated several differences. All target children & Mosher, 1980; Pasley & Gecas, 1984). were between 8-12 at the time of placement in the Teaching &: Evaluation Centres; however, at the time of the study, they varied from 8-15 years of age, due to the fact that some of the children had completed placement there from 1-3 years previous. Fathers were subgrouped by child's age, as it was considered that parenting a teenager might add differing stresses to the family life cycle, as indicated by several researchers (Duvall, 1977; O'Hara, Chaiklin & Mosher, 1980; Pasley & Gecas, 1984). The Q-sort patterns of these two subgroups were then compared, and differences in demographic information were also analyzed. As can be seen by examining Table 4.8, there were sev- Table 4.8: Comparisons re variable: Child's age Salient Information Pre-teens (n = 9) Teens (n = 6) Father's age (years): x - 42.5, s = 1.5 x = 49.3, s = 2.2 Mothers' employment: 45% working 100% working Birth position: 78% first-born 17% first-born Perceived Support (raw score): Family: Friends: Q-sort, Spouse's Network (raw score): x = 10.0, s = 1.8 x = 12.4, s = 1.5 x = 24.67, s = 0.4 x = 13.3, a = 2.6 x = 14.0, s = 2.3 x = 21.67, s = 1.2 eral differences when comparing these subgroups of fathers. One of the most distinctive differences is in regard to the target child's birth position. For those preteens identified as having a learning difficulty, the majority were first-born children. In contrast, for Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 105 those teens identified with learning difficulties, the majority were subsequent-born chil- dren. My particular sample of volunteer fathers appears to be somewhat skewed, in that subsequent-born children appear to be younger children of an older family, to a marked degree. This observation is borne out by looking at the fathers' ages: averaging about 6 years older for the fathers of teens subgroup. Several items of note are in regard to the Perceived Support Scales scores for these two subgroups. For both Family and Friend scales, the fathers of teens had a significantly higher score, indicating that they perceived themselves as moderately well supported by these two important subgroups of their intimate informal social network. The use of the spouse's informal social network was much higher for the fathers of preteens with learning difficulties. As well, the spouse was a very important reported behaviour choice for these fathers. Several statement items such as, #2 wait for spouse's support, #11 talk with spouse's family, and #12 wait for spouse's family ... support, all changed markedly. They were much higher in rank-ordering for the fathers of preteens than for fathers of teens. Again, these differences may be indicative of other factors or variables affecting the way fathers access social support, such as fathers' ages. One Q-sort statement which moved into 3rd place for the fathers' of teens, only, was #30, go to my child's teacher. Fathers of teens rank-ordered as much higher all those items which were related to the formal social network: school persons and experts. In contrast, fathers of preteens rank-ordered several informal social network items signifi- cantly higher, as being 'much like' their usual behaviour. The volatility or changeability of these several items is discussed later in the chapter. 4.5.5 Subgroup by variable: Interval time Interval time (or lag time), as discussed earlier, relates to the number of years between first referral for testing (due to possible learning disability), and subsequent placement Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 106 on waiting list for specialized remedial centre. This lag time varied from less than 1 year, to 5 years. As indicated previously, 5 children (one-third of the study children) were not placed on a waiting list for up to 5 years, which was apparently experienced as a matter of considerable stress reported by the fathers of the subgroup. Table 4.9: Comparisons re variable: Interval time period Salient Information Short lag [< 2 yrs.] (n = 10) Long lag [> 3 yrs.] (n = 5) Child's age (years): x = 11.8, s = 0.6 x = 12.4, s = 0.4 Current enrollment: 80% reg. ± L.A.C. 60% reg. ± L.A.C. Perceived Social Support: Family (raw score): Q-sort, Family (raw score): x = 12.8, s - 1.5 x = 17.7, s = 0.5 x = 8.6, s = 3.25 x = 15.6, s = 0.9 As can be readily seen, those fathers of children who experienced a long lag time between referral for testing and placement, also demonstrated a definite lack of perceived support from their family (of origin). The Q-sort pattern is congruent as well, with these same fathers being less likely to report behaviours relating to accessing their family in regard to concerns they may have had about their child with learning difficulties. These fathers were, however, more likely to talk with their friends (#9) re those concerns. And, in fact, the total Perceived Social Support: Friends scale scores were unremarkable when comparing the two subgroups of fathers. It is not clear why fathers perceived themselves to be poorly supported by their families in regard to their child with learning difficulties. One may speculate about the effects on one's extended family members when experiencing a chronic (long-lasting) hidden handicap, one which has been un-remediated. Once again, it also seems clear that knowledge about the assessed severity or complexity of the child's educational dysfunction would have added richness to the analysis of the fathers' data. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 107 Other Q-sort items which were markedly different, were those relating to support from spouse's informal network, #'s 11, 12: family. These two items were much lower in rank-ordering for those long lag fathers, moving from 'somewhat like' usual behaviour for short lag subgroup, to 'not at all like' usual behaviour. Item # 37, go to my doctor for assistance, was also much lower for the long lag subgroup, moving from 7th (Z > +1) to 13th place, the lowest rank-ordering of this item for all subgroups. Again, it is not clear why these fathers reported going to one's doctor as a less usual behaviour. The question of diagnosis of the child's difficulty may appear to place the 'problem' in the hands of educational specialists, rather than somewhat in the field of medical personnel. Certainly fathers reported contacting or discussing concerns with school personnel in a similar manner for both short and long lag subgroups. However, short lag fathers reported significantly that they went to their doctor, and to their family; long lag fathers were more likely to talk with their friends, the child's school counsellor, their colleagues, and acquaintances. The latter patterns of reported behaviour may be described as 'scattered' behaviour, where a variety of persons in one's total network are accessed. 4.6 V a r i a b i l i t y i n Q - s o r t i n g of S t a t e m e n t s Variability of certain Q-sort items has been indicated throughout the previous analyses. Although there was a great deal of congruence in Q-sort rank-ordering of the various statements about possible social networks, specific items demonstrated a high degree of movement, reflecting either strong individual experiences, or the effects of unknown vari- ables on the lathers' behaviour choices. As stated earlier, these fathers were a relatively homogeneous group in terms of a number of variables. Thus, small differences might be considered to be relatively significant and worthy of note. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 108 Note that in the following discussion, place indicates the specific 9 piles on which the fathers put the 41 item statements. First place (pile number 1) refers to the least similar behaviour, and ninth place (pile number 9) refers to the most similar behaviour. See Appendix XX*, p. ?*, for a description and explanation of the Q-sorting procedure. 4.6.1 Least variability The least variable statements, showing only a 1 point difference in Q-sorting, were item numbers 3, 14, 26. These items demonstrated a high degree of consensus from the fathers. Item # 3, Sharing concerns with spouse, was scored high by all fathers: either 8th or 9th place, indicating a very high degree of consensus on that behaviour. Many of the fathers discussed the statements and why they sorted them they way they chose. They felt that #3 was less active behaviour than seek out my spouse, and meant that the spouse might frequently be the person bringing up the (mutual) concerns they might have about their child's schooling difficulties. The latter statement, (seeking spouse), although similarly scored very high, showed much more variability (from 6th - 9th place). Perhaps, this may indicate that fathers may expect their spouses to be more active in discussing their common concerns; or it may be that some fathers may not feel the need to actively seek out their spouses for reasons unspecified. Item #14, Find that my spouse's friends provide me with the support I need, is a pas- sive voice statement, attempting to address the influence of the spouse and her network in providing supportive functions. This item was ranked from 4th to 5th place, i.e., a middle-place item, and thus not particularly significant as a choice of behaviour. It was, however, more commonly chosen than was seeking out or waiting for help from one's neighbours. Thus, fathers chose spousal informal network support more than their own more distant informal network members. It is interesting to note that the HIGH and LOW groups did not differ in this choice. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 109 Item #26, Talk with my (a) barber/hairstylist, was a very low choice item for all fathers, being ranked in either 2nd or 3rd place. Part of the fathers' informal network, this is a very distant group of individuals with whom one might expect fathers to have contact on an infrequent but regular basis. In regard to barbers several fathers mentioned that their wives cut their hair, or other family members did so, and that therefore this group of persons (barbers) was not part of their community interaction. It is noteworthy that fathers were much more variable in sorting out a different group of distant informal persons: strangers. Strangers were sorted from 1st place - lowest ranking - to 4th place - middle-low ranking. The strangers category eh cited several anecdotes of fathers talking with people at bus stops, on a plane, or other similar public settings, and receiving information or support from those individuals. 4.6.2 M i n i m a l v a r i a b i l i t y Of the total 41 items, 11 (25%) of them showed minimal variability, demonstrating a high degree of consensus regarding fathers' usual behaviours in regard to concerns about their child. The greatest agreement on statements (only 1 or 2 points spread) were as follows (including the three previously described statements): Comparing the information in Table 4.10 with that in Table 4.3 and Table 4.4, of the Q-sort statements with minimal variability, it can be seen that #3 (share my concerns with my spouse) was consistently sorted highest as a reported usual behaviour of fathers. Trends in the research literature regarding the supportive relationship of mothers and fathers indicated that one might expect that the spouse would be the primary source accessed by the fathers. This expectation was borne out by the sorting patterns of the fathers in this study. Additionally, it was unknown whether husbands also utilized their wives' informal network, although there was indication of some limited correlation of shared informal Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 110 Table 4.10: Consensual Q-sort statements # Statement (abbreviated) Min./Max. Rank Point spread most like... 3 share concerns with spouse 8 — 9 1 29 talk with child's principal 5 — 7 2 32 discuss with child's school counsellor 5 — 7 2 somewhat like... 10 spend relaxation time with friend(s) 4 — 6 2 13 talk with spouse's friends ... 4 — 6 2 15 go for specific help to spouse's friend(s) 4 — 6 2 14 find that spouse's friends ... support ... 4 — 5 1 little like... 8 wait for my friend(s) to ... support 3 — 5 2 22 spend relaxation time with acquaintances 3 — 5 2 27 talk with waiter ... 2 — 4 2 26 talk with barber ... 2 — 3 1 networks and marital stability. However, the Q-sorting of spouse's friends and family was highly variable, ranging from 3rd to 7th place. This clearfy indicated the individ- uality of the relationships these fathers had developed with the two groups. Thus, no generalizations were possible to make regarding the importance of shared networks. Other consensual items, scored medium-high, were #29 (talk with my child's princi- pal), and # 32 (discuss them [concerns] with my child's school counsellor), both of which were scored from 5th to 7th place. These indicate a relatively high degree of agreement on support behaviour in regard to experts: seeking out and talking with those school personnel who might be of direct assistance. As the literature indicated that fathers consistently choose an instrumental role, we might have expected to find that the formal network, particularly utilizing the specific experts involved in the child's school, would be a significant resource group for the fathers to access. Thus, these results are in Une with expectations. As indicated by the top 7 items (see Table 4.3), discussing concerns Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 111 with specific school personnel were 'usual behaviours' for most fathers. Mid-range items (scored 4th to 6th place) on which there was general consensus, were #10 spend relaxation time with friend(s), and the group of items relating to support from spouse's friends: #'s 13, 14, and 15. Fathers did not appear to utilize these groups of people significantly for support purposes. Note that mid-range items could be described as representing 'somewhat like' fathers' usual behaviours only. Other statement items in the friends category are #'s 7, 8, and 9. Number 8 is discussed below. The two other statements, regarding using friends for general or specific assistance, elicited a wide range of responses, from 4th to 8th place. There was a tendency to talk with rather than to go for specific help in regard to friends. Several fathers stated that "...men don't use friends like that [for solving personal problems]". It seems most likely that fathers in this study reported using friends for 'general support' purposes, rather than for specific support factors (advice, guidance, information, emotional support, etc.). As discussed previously, this is somewhat contrary to what has been reported for women, and points out the need to evaluate the social support concept from an individual perspective. 'Parents' social support-seeking behaviour is equivalent neither to mothers' nor to fathers' support-seeking behaviours. Low-range items (scored 3rd to 5th place) were #8 and #22. Statement #8, wait for friends to ... support, is a passively-voiced statement, attempting to elicit the expectation of support from friends or a friend. This was considered a little-used option by the fathers in the study. Again, it appears clear that these fathers tend not to have the same kind of reciprocal friendship relationships that women or mothers do, according to the literature review. Statement #22, spend relaxation time with acquaintances, attempts to look at other types of relationships that fathers might access. The literature suggested that fathers might become involved in distancing behaviour, and this item provided fathers with an option. Although this item was certainly a low-choice item, it elicited several Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 112 anecdotes and questions from three fathers as to their own relatively-high sorting of this behaviour item. Two fathers appeared to want reassurance that this item was socially- acceptable behaviour on their parts. One father stated that ".. .when you can't do much about it, or you're just stressed out, at least I could go off and tune-out with a few people ... sort of come back fresh." The greatest consensus on the lowest-ranked items was on statement #'s 26 and 27, talk with my barber ... talk with my waiter.... It was not known from the literature whether fathers access an emotionally-distant group of regular informal contacts, such as those people in service positions. This group might be seen by fathers as low-risk persons with whom to discuss their concerns, as the level of intimacy is relatively low and emotions are likely to be easily controlled. Thus, at times, they might be expected to provide a non-judgemental listening experience for concerned fathers. The results indicate that fathers did not appear to choose this group. Confounding the results is the relatively overt social undesirability of choosing such items, although several fathers did state that they could "... see how some [fathers] might do this". 4.6.3 G r e a t e s t v a r i a b i l i t y Three items varied considerably, with a 5 point spread: i.e., from ranked low to medium- high; 'not at all like' to 'very like' their usual behaviour, as reported. Table 4.11: Greatest item variability Statement Min./Max. rank #21: talk with my boss 1 — 6 #38: go to ray clergy ... 1 — 6 #40: talk with my counsellor ... 2 — 7 For some fathers, these three items were very salient, and reflected particular and Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 113 highly-valued relationships, often of relatively long endurance. Those several fathers who placed boss fairly high, pointed out the boss' experience in the field of school education or a personal experience with a child with school problems, such that the fathers believed their boss would be a good resource person to go to, one who would understand what was needed in order to get specific help for their children. In regard to the other two items, it might be expected that clergy and counsellors would be persons chosen for their emotional support more than for directive guidance or information. This was borne out by the anecdotes given by the fathers in regards to these items. In general, statements were made about 'feeling understood', 'getting my emotions out of the way/under control', 'feeling like I'm not helpless', 'neither of us [wife/self] needed to feel we were to blame for this problem', and so on. A further consideration which this researcher was unable to elicit through the Q- sorting procedure had to do with the notion that fathers, was unable to elicit through in their search to attribute meaningfulness to this life event, might seek out those who could address their questions in this regard. In a similar manner, seeking information from one's physician, psychologist or counsellor, might be another significant expression of attempts either to attribute meaningfulness to the event, or to seek to understand it from a more 'scientific' rather than 'spiritual' point of view. The two items in regard to one's doctor (#'s 36, 37) also showed a relatively high variability, with scores ranging from 3rd to 8th place. Item #37, go to my doctor ..., was a relatively important choice by most of the fathers. In regard to the 'clergy' items discussed previously, those fathers who placed these two items very low in their Q-sorting stated that they 'didn't feel the need', 'wished I still had that padre I knew a few years ago', 'not something I'd ever do'. These variable items were not apparently related with each other, thus indicating individual support system characteristics. In addition, the two perceived support groups of fathers (HIGH, LOW) Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 114 did not differ in regard to these items. However, those fathers with at-home wives were somewhat more likely to go to their clergy for assistance. This may indicate a tendency for those families (fathers with at-home wives) to be somewhat more traditional in their values. 4.7 Q-sort Item Volatility: Comparison Across Subgroups of Fathers Further analysis of the subgroups of fathers in this study, revealed that particular Q-sort item statements were most salient for specific subgroups. As described previously, some items varied markedly between subgroups. In this section, fathers are examined, not for their variability in Q-sorting the social support items, but for the salience of those items in regard to the identified variable which characterizes their subgroup. In this section, only those items are noted which changed rank-ordering by > 10 or from/to a rank of statistical significance: Z > +1 ('most like'), Z > — 1 ('least like'). Examination of this information provides more depth to our analysis of the fathers, and of their reported choices of social support-seeking behaviour. 4.7.1 Perceived Support: High, Low When examining the Q-sort results of these two important subgroups of fathers, be- haviour statement item #'s 2, 7, 9, 12, and 18 changed their rank ordering by > 10, or from a rank of significance (Z > +1) to one of considerably less salience. See Table 4.12 which describes these particular items. The fathers had been subgrouped on the basis of their Perceived Support Scales scores, into two groups: those perceiving themselves as highly supported by family and friends; and those perceiving themselves as little sup- ported. Those items which have an '(*) marking their rank order are those which have a Zscoreil. Note that #'s 2, 9, and 12, all moved from positions of significance (Z > ±1). Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 115 Table 4.12: Item volatility: Perceived High, Low support Q-sort Items Rank Order Changes # Statement (abbreviated) High Low 2 wait for spouse ... provide support 17 th -» 6th* .7 go for specific help to friend(s) 10th -» 23rd 9 talk with my friend(s) 4th* -» 13th 12 wait for spouse's family ... support 36th* 26th 18 seek help from neighbour(s) 22nd -+ 33rd As we can see, those fathers who perceived themselves to be well supported, reflected those perceptions in their reported behaviours: being much more likely to state that they went for assistance to their friends, or their neighbours, and were much less likely to expect support to be provided by their spouse or spouse's family, than were those fathers who perceived themselves to be poorly supported. The latter group did not report behaviours involving their informal support network persons in their top selections (Z>+1). 4.7.2 W o r k i n g / N o n w o r k i n g W i v e s Ten of the fathers in the study had wives who were employed outside of the house (2 were employed in their husband's business), either full-time or part-time; and five fathers had wives who were at-home, nonworking. The Q-sort patterns of these two groups were quite different in a number of respects, some of which have been described earlier in this chapter. The behaviour items which displayed the greatest volatility are shown in Table 4.13. As before, items are starred with an asterisk (*) if that rank order had a significant Z score of ±1. As shown, fathers with working wives reported behaviours such as going to school consultants working with their children, going to their child's school counsellor, going for Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 116 Table 4.13: Item volatility: Working/nonworking wives Q-sort Items # Statement (abbreviated) Rank Order Changes Working At-home 2 wait for spouse ... support 13th -* 3rd* 6 spend relaxation time with family 21st -* 7th* 7 go for specific help to friend(s) Uth -> 26th 11 talk with spouse's family 27th -> 12th 32 discuss with child's school counsellor 7th* -> 15th 33 go to child's school consultants 5th* -> 13th 38 go to my clergy ... 35th* -> 25th specific help to their friends as 'very like' their usual behaviour. Fathers with at-home nonworking wives were apparently choosing behaviours such as expecting their wives to provide support, relaxing with family members, talking with their spouse's family. In line with expectations, their reported behaviours appear to indicate that fathers of working wives seem to be most task-oriented in engaging with their concerns about their children. The choices ranked most high were those involving their child's school personnel, experts, and their doctor. As in all subgroupings, fathers ranked behaviours involving their spouse as their primary behaviour, (see Table 4.3). Fathers with at-home wives appeared to be much more likely to report depending on their spouse for support: all three spousal items were ranked highest for this subgroup, indicating that the spouse was the primary support person for this subgroup of fathers. It appears that, in contrast to fathers with working wives, the fathers of at-home wives tended not to contact their friends for assistance, but to go to experts, the child's school teacher, or their doctor for assistance. Fathers of working wives tended to see all school personnel involved with their child (teacher, school consultants, school counsellor), and did not spend relaxation time with their family members. The last item (#6) was quite unremarkable for the subgroup of fathers with working wives. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 117 There appears to be some mild support from these results as to the changing role of fathers in today's society. The fathers of working wives would likely need to share more of the responsibilities of their joint parenting in a somewhat equal manner. And one can see that fathers of at-home wives appear to be representing somewhat the stereotype of the traditional father, who has expectations of parenting being primarily the mother's role. The fathers were a highly homogeneous group in many respects, so that apparently small differences in reported behaviours may be considered to be of note. 4.7.3 Target child's birth position Separated into fathers of first-borns, and fathers of subsequent-borns (2nd, 3rd), fathers reported several differences in behaviour choices in relation to their concerns for their child with a learning difficulty. Several items were most salient to these subgroups. Table 4.14: Item volatility: Child's birth position Q-sort Items Rank Order Changes # Statement (abbreviated) First-born Subsequent 6 relax with family members 9th - » 22nd 9 talk with friends 5th* -> 13th 21 talk with my boss 2,1th* - » 23rd 31 discuss ... with child's teacher 8th - » 4th* In addition to the common choices (#'s 1, 3, 30, 41), fathers of first-born target children indicated they tended to talk with their friends, go to their family, and relax with family members, more than did fathers of subsequent-born children. Interestingly, the fathers of subsequent-born target children were much more likely to report discussing concerns with their child's teacher, going to their doctor, and had a higher expectation that the school personnel would provide them with the support they needed. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 118 This pattern appears to reflect a more positive and active expectation of parent- school interaction, and perhaps some degree of greater understanding of using the school system. Fathers whose first-born child had significant learning difficulties might not have had the opportunity to develop non-problem-oriented relationships with school personnel. As pointed out previously, fathers whose first-born child had a typical school experience might be expected to have begun to learn about effective ways to interface with the various school personnel, without the impetus of an ambiguously and minimally handicapped child. 4.7.4 Target child's age At the time of the study, the target children ranged in age from 8-15 years of age. The fathers were subgrouped on the variable, target child's age, and split into two groups: preteen (8-12), and teen (13-15). Note that the fathers' ages did not vary, showing the same range of ages (approximately). Several specific items appeared to be quite relevant to these fathers. The most changeable items for these fathers are displayed below, in Table 4.15: Item volatility: Child's age Q-sort Items Rank Order Changes # Statement (abbreviated) Preteens Teens 2 wait for spouse ... provide support 5th* 13th 6 spend relaxation time with family 10th -* 23rd 11 talk with spouse's family 11th -» 32nd 12 wait for spouse's family ... support 21th -* 36th* Table 4.15. As before, the most salient items are marked with an asterisk, indicating that their Z score was > ±1. Once again, we see that several items were more significant for one subgroup of fathers. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 119 Those fathers whose target child was still a preteen tended to report behaviours such as expecting support from their spouse, relaxing with family members, as well as the more common ones described previously (going to spouse, teacher, experts). However, the fathers of teens reported #30, (go to child's teacher) in 2nd place, and did not report informal network contact — other than spouse — until rank order 8. These teens varied in terms of their birth position in the family, and in whether their mothers were employed outside of the home. The fathers of teens several times made comments as to the necessity of keeping in touch with the children's teachers, and not letting problems 'slide'. Certainly, we might expect that these fathers could have a somewhat different relationship with their teenage sons than those fathers with preteens. Issues of independence would be more salient for the teenagers, and perhaps be obstacles for the fathers to overcome in order to assist the teens in their educational programmes. As many parents of teens find this age one of the most difficult to parent (Pasley & Gecas, 1984), It is encouraging to note that these fathers of teens with educational difficulties maintained a relatively active role in attempting to assist their children in coping with the school institution. 4.7.5 P l a c e m e n t l ag t i m e Fathers differed on another variable: the amount of time between the child was referred for testing for apparent educational dysfunction, and the time the child was eventually placed on a waiting list for a specialized educational diagnostic centre (e.g., the T. &; E. Centre). As discussed earlier, for most parents (n = 10) this lag time was well under 2 years. However, in 5 cases, this lag time was between 3-5 years, and was described by the fathers as tremendously frustrating. Therefore, these fathers were subgrouped on the basis of a short lag (< 2 yrs.), or a long lag (> 3 yrs.). Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 120 Table 4.16: Item volatility: Interval time period Q-sort Items # Statement (abbreviated) Rank Order Changes Short lag Long lag 5 go to my family Sth* -> nth 6 spend relaxation time: family 13th -> 21st 9 talk with friends 11th -» 6th* 11 talk with spouse's family 18th -» 33rd 23 expect acquaintances ... support 36th* -> 26th 37 go to my doctor 7th* -> 13th Table 4.16 compares, for these two subgroups of fathers, their rank ordering of par- ticularly salient items in their Q-sorts. As we can see, those fathers who experienced a short lag time, were more likely to report that they went to their families, and went to their doctors, in addition to other common behaviour choices. Those fathers who experienced a long lag time (3-5 years) were much more likely to report that they talked with friends as well as their child's school expert personnel. However, they were much less likely to go to their families or to spend relaxation time with family members than were fathers experiencing a short lag time. Most informal network persons were rank-ordered higher for these fathers than they were for the short lag fathers. Long lag fathers appeared to utilize primarily their formal group of educational experts, and secondarily, their informal group of friends, colleagues, acquaintances. It is important to note that the long lag fathers did not necessarily report behaviours that could be expected to be of the most direct assistance as 'most like' their usual behaviour: such as, going to principal, doctor, or school board. One could speculate that the fathers experiencing a long lag time might possibly have found such professionals of little utility in alleviating their concerns for their children and, therefore, have chosen to Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 121 spend more of their time and energy on contacting either the direct professionals involved, or their informal social network for contacts and advice. There is general consensus in the literature that fathers are not as involved as are mothers in various programmes aimed at 'parents'. Various explanations have been preferred as to the possible reasons for this minimal involvement: not interested, too busy, work schedules interfere, father's attitudes toward either parenting roles and/or values about children, and so on. The fathers who volunteered for this particular study are, by definition, fathers who are willing to expose their parenting role to an outsider. It is possible that those fathers who did not volunteer to participate in the research may differ from those described herein. 4.8 S u m m a r y of V a r i a b i l i t y 1. Fathers with perceived LOW support from Family and/or Friends, as measured with the Perceived Social Support scales, were more likely, than were HIGH support fathers, to: [#2] wait for spouse to provide support [#35] initiate assistance from School Board [#12] wait for spouse's family to provide support and they were LESS likely to: [#7] go for specific help to [own] friends [#18] seek help from neighbours. 2. In regard to at-home, non-working wives, fathers were MORE likely to choose the following items than were fathers with working wives: .Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 122 [#2] wait for spouse to provide support [#6] relax with family members [#11] talk with spouse's family [#38] go to their clergy (...) for help and they were LESS likely to: [#33] go to school consultants working with their child [#32] discuss [concerns] with child's school counsellor [#34] expect the child's school personnel to provide support [#7] go for specific help to [own] friends [#8] wait for [own] friends to provide support. 3. Fathers of first-born children with learning difficulties, when comparing responses with fathers of subsequent-born ones, were MORE likely to: [#9] talk with [own] friends [#5] go to [own] family [#6] spend relaxation time with [own] family members with learning difficulties, and were much LESS likely to: [#21] talk with their boss. 4. In comparison, on the other hand, fathers of subsequent-born children with learning difficulties were MORE likely to: Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 123 [#31] discuss concerns with child's teacher [#37] go to doctor for assistance; and [# 2] wait for spouse ... support and were much LESS likely to: [#21] talk with their boss. 5. When comparing Q-sorting of support items by fathers of preteens and teens, it is apparent that fathers of teens report being MORE likely to: [#30] go to child's teacher [#32] discuss concerns with school counsellor [#33] go to child's school consultants [#5] go to [own] family [#34] expect child's school personnel to ... provide support. Fathers of pre-teenaged children with learning difficulties, reported that they were much MORE likely to: [# 2] wait for spouse ... support [# 6] spend relaxation time with [own] family [#11] talk with spouse's family; and, [#12] wait for spouse's family ...support. Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 124 6. Comparing the subgroups of fathers in relation to the variable, interval placement time (lag time), it is apparent that fathers experiencing a short lag time were MORE likely to: [#37] go to doctor for assistance [# 5] go to [own] family [# 6] spend relaxation time with [own] family [#11] talk with spouse's family; and, [#12] wait for spouse's family .. .support. Those fathers who experienced a relatively long lag time between referral for ed- ucational testing and placement for specialized remediation, were MORE likely to: [# 9] talk with [own] friends [#32] discuss concerns with school counsellor [#20] share concerns with colleagues [#24] seek assistance from acquaintances; and, [#23] expect acquaintances to ...support. 4.8.1 A d d i t i o n a l Q—sort p rocess i n f o r m a t i o n As mentioned earlier in this chapter, fathers frequently mused out loud about their sorting process as they were doing the Q-sort. At the end of the sort, all fathers were asked several questions about the manner in which they sorted items, and if they had any comments to offer. Most of this data was not recorded verbatim, and was not originally Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 125 considered to be a necessary part of this research. However, it seems clear that a richness of data was lost due to this consideration. Almost all fathers were able to articulate their feelings about the process, had anec- dotes to offer about their experiences over time with their educationally dysfunctional children, and made specific comments about the value or lack of value in seeking support or information from particular groups of people. Several commented that they would cer- tainly do 'it' differently another time ('it' referring to seeking support and information from teachers, clergy, doctor, school board personnel, friends, etc.). In general, many of the fathers expressed some degree of self-criticism in evaluating their past behaviour, stating that they believed they had 'wasted time' for their children by not following through assertively enough on concerns and contacts, as much as it [retrospectively] seemed necessary. This clearly is an area worthy of further detailed investigation. Time constraints did not allow for this kind of process-oriented data to be included and added to the Q-sorting procedure and data analysis. In the following chapter are discussed further research directions in the area of social support-seeking behaviours of fathers of children with significant learning difficulties. Additional discussion in Chapter 5 is related to implications for the educational system in general, and to counsellors as pivotal resource persons within the educational system. many of the fathers expressed some degree of self-criticism in evaluating their past behaviour, stating that they believed they had 'wasted time' for their children by not following through assertively enough on concerns and contacts, as much as it [retrospec- tively] seemed necessary. This clearly is an area worthy of further detailed investigation. Time constraints did not allow for this kind of process-oriented data to be included and added to the Q-sorting procedure and data analysis. In the following chapter are discussed further research directions in the area of social Chapter 4. RESULTS and DISCUSSION 126 support-seeking behaviours of fathers of children with significant learning difficulties. Additional discussion in Chapter 5 is related to implications for the educational system in general, and to counsellors as pivotal resource persons within the educational system. for the educational system in general, and to counsellors as pivotal resource persons within the educational system. Chapter 5 R E S E A R C H and C O U N S E L L I N G IMPLICATIONS 5.1 Limitations of Study This group of fathers was solicited on the basis of very strict criteria, in the hope of eh citing consensual information about support-seeking behaviour of fathers, without the problem of 'smearing' of results for different possible subgroups of parents: e.g., families with adopted children; cross-cultural parents, with English as a second language; single parents; blended/step-families; and so on. The experience of social stress for these differing groups of parents may or may not provide markedly dissimilar patterns of support-seeking in relation to having a child with a significant educational dysfunction. Because this was an exploratory study, involving a small-n of fathers, the results should be considered to be useful only in indicating trends in behavioural responses by fathers in two-parent homes, matching the various criteria specified. As the fathers all tended to be of a relatively homogeneous socio-economic status (professional employment, owned home, relatively high income), the results cannot be considered generalizable to fathers of other dissimilar socio-economic groups. The fathers studied all resided in a large urban centre on the West Coast of Canada, with access to a variety of resources. Thus, results may not be similar to fathers residing in rural areas, nor necessarily to fathers residing in urban centres in other parts of Canada. Since the majority of the target children were boys, to a greater than expected degree, it is necessary to point out that the responses of fathers of daughters identified as learning 127 Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 128 disabled may well be somewhat dissimilar from the patterns described. As well, the skewed proportion of boys to the total children in the, families studied is an area of interest, and may or may not be relevant to the response patterns reported by these particular fathers. The lack of objective data on the apparent severity of the children's learning disabil- ities made it difficult to ascertain the effect of that variable on fathers' reported social support-seeking behaviours. The group of fathers may not have been 'equal' in terms of experiencing a handicapped member of the family. As well, fathers may not have been 'equal' in the degree of past and present stressful life events, either as individuals or as experienced by the family as a unit. The relevance of such experiences has been discussed in Chapter 2. As with any research involving volunteer subjects, there are inherent limitations on the generalizability of results gathered, unless there are ways to assess whether the volunteers differ from the population of all possible subjects. With no way to gather the specific demographic information required of the non-volunteer fathers potentially available, the results may reflect only one of several possible patterns of behaviours. The 'Yes/No' format of the Perceived Social Support scales has an important method- ological concern: there is a ceiling effect likely, particularly for those groups who may have relatively high social support. The most sensitive range for the two scales used is likely to be in the bottom end, in the low to mid-range scores. For that reason, the fathers were subgrouped on the basis of their scores into apparent LOW-support and HIGH-support subgroups. Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 129 5.2 Suggested Future Research With the patterns of this small group of fathers (typical nuclear family) as a prototype, it should now be possible to further examine other groups of parents, for replication, as well as comparison and contrast purposes. Fathers should also be assessed in more detail on various potentially influential factors, as discussed below. Various stress (life events) scales might be utilized, not to measure the stress of the child's learning difficulties, but to divide the groups into high/low subgroups of experiencing stress in other areas of their lives: i.e., are we dealing with a highly-stressed family (or parent) due to problems such as employment fragility, recent heart attack, recent death of parent, increase in financial burdens ? and so on, as noted in, e.g., Holmes and Rahe's social readjustment scale (1967). No attempt was made in this research study to break the group of fathers into high stress/low stress subgroups, as we were dealing with very small numbers. It would be useful to have greater information about the stress history of the parents, and the family as a whole. As Cobb and others suggest, the notion of sense of personal mastery is an important aspect of cognitive appraisal of one's stress and of one's resources. Therefore, it might be useful to use a self-esteem scale or questionnaire, guided by a focus question regarding parenting one's disabled child/typical child(ren). By comparison of self-esteem scores with support-seeking behaviour, the relevance of personal mastery might be clarified for fathers. Because of the overt social desirability of the items, it would be necessary to use a scale or questionnaire with excellent validation. It seems likely, however, that fathers in particular might be very vulnerable to feeling unable to assist their child effectively when interfacing with a bureaucracy such as the educational institution. This sense of lack of personal control (see Mederer & Hill, 1983) might be related to how effective as parents Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 130 fathers believe themselves to be: how positive they feel about themselves in a more global sense. This is a very promising area of research. Most studies on parenting tend to interview or scale parents together, without using un-biased measures of what might constitute effective fathering, rather than effective 'parenting' (mothering). Recognizing that the parenting experience varies over time, and with subsequent children, parents should be assessed before and after being subgrouped, in order to gain greater clarity of the relative effect of time on adaptive coping. It is unclear which support functions are most salient for the fathers in my study. Anecdotes volunteered during the study seemed to indicate that some fathers received or sought emotional support, and non-directive guidance; others were most interested in getting the problem solved, and were more concrete and task-oriented. Note the assump- tion that fathers' social network interactions are considered 'supportive' if reciprocal in nature, as are women's. Some of the fathers experienced (reported) very little support from their family and friends, but it is unclear whether those two major informal groups were available, had been found 'wanting' some time ago, or whether in fact, the fathers simply perceived those groups as unsupportive. It is also possible that fathers do not have an expectation of reciprocal social interactions with family and friends being more supportive than non-reciprocal interactions. The nature and characteristics of social in- teractions for men still need to be further clarified in the field of social support-seeking behaviour. Just as parenting tended to be measured against the standard of 'mothering', social support-seeking behaviour has tended to be measured against the standard of women's support-seeking patterns. Some of the scales' items on the Perceived Social Support: Friends, Family, eh cited comments from several fathers that the items were ones that their wives would best answer: i.e., they were not relevant at all to their own experience or expectation of what constitutes supportive relationships with others, stating "men Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 131 don't do that". Further refinement of measures to assess how men (fathers) interact with others in their lives, and to what purposes, would be most helpful in assessing how effective they are in using such external resources. The following points could be further explored by a similar Q-technique process, or by in-depth semi-structured interviews of fathers of children with significant learning dif- ficulties. For example, Q-sorting of identical or similar items in relation to several varied Key Sentences might add greater richness to our understanding of fathers' experiences of supportive social interactions. • who fathers interact with regarding their concerns about their child (as in my study); When I have concerns about my child, my usual behaviour is to .. .\ • how useful/helpful specific interactions were for the fathers in meeting their support needs; When I had concerns about my child, I found that the most useful or helpful behaviour was to ...; • what fathers might recommend for other fathers, e.g., a father with a newly di- agnosed child with an learning disability; For a father concerned about his child's learning difficulties, I would recommend the following behaviour ...; To clarify what support elements were most salient, for fathers, it could be useful to ask fathers specifically, what particular aspects or support functions were met (and to what degree) by the specific social network groups available to them. 1. who (person; role) did you find best met your needs for: • support • information • guidance Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 132 • specific/material assistance 2. Which of the above 4 elements of social support are/were most important for you? when? (These are from Barrerra &; Ainlay's (1983) research on factor analysis of the apparent functions of social support activities). Fathers could rate each item; priorize; give specific examples of what would constitute that function for themselves, and so on. 3. As pointed out earlier, similar Q-sorts should be done with other subgroups of parents: • single parents; • include adopted children; • blended/step-family children; • cross-cultural parents (specific, separate cultures); • parents of children not identified as learning disabled until they are in their teens; • parents of children enrolled in regular classes, but receiving regular L.A.C. assistance. 4. The severity of the child's learning disabilities, with some indication of possible interactive factors could be described, perhaps using a Likert-type scale: severity scaled: from 1 = minimal disability in one area, to 7 = severe disability in one or more areas factors emotional; language; familial history; high-stress family; and so on. Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 133 5. The apparent or 'understood' severity of child's learning disabilities could be de- scribed by the parent(s) in a similar way as above and, compared with that done by the child's teacher; this comparison rating could provide richness to the Q-sorting and other demographic data requested of the parents. 6. Comparison of fathers' and mothers' (separately) reports would provide a check on the information gathered, and allow comparisons to be made. 7. Having family members complete a family environment scale of some sort (e.g., F.A.C.E.S., F.E.S.) would allow a greater understanding of the current family dy- namics, and family functioning in particular areas. Comparison of this information with other target child information, and with parents' social support-seeking be- haviour, might shed greater light on the farnily inter-active factors regarding having a child with a significant learning disability. 8. Anecdotal information about the earliest indication of the child's difficulties noted by the parents,'might also provide some general guidance for early diagnosis and intervention strategies which could be useful. Note that retrospective histories may not be totally accurate. 9. Providing greater spread for the Q-sorting might have been more useful: many fathers complained about needing to put so few in the top/bottom piles. Others indicated that they would skew their results to many in the top (much like) pile, while others would skew their results to many in the bottom (little like) pile! An unstructured sorting might have provided different kinds of information about how fathers report their behaviour in regard to social support seeking to various groups of persons in their social ecology. Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 134 Detailed demographic information appears necessary for further research in this im- portant area of fathers of school-aged children with learning difficulties. Certain interact- ing variables appear salient for some fathers, and may partially account for the observed variability in some of the research results. The particular group of fathers studied were highly homogeneous, so the large number of consensual items was expected. Other pat- terns of behavioural responses for more heterogeneous groups of fathers and mothers, need to be ascertained. The lack of information in this important area of learning disability indicates a high need for detailed careful research analysis. The particularly noteworthy variables which were found for this specific group of fathers were: 1. perceived support level; 2. wives' employment; 3. birth order of target child; 4. age of target child; 5. length of interval period (testing to placement). It is still unclear what the effect of time is on the father's support-seeking behaviour. Clearly, it would be helpful to compare patterns of behaviour between the two groups: parents with children currently being tested/on waiting list; with parents whose children have completed a semester in a specialized diagnostic and remediation centre, or whose children completed a semester more than 3 years past. The study points out how some children did not 'get better' over time; that is, a conservative approach of wait-and-see was not productive. It is not within the scope Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 135 of this study to ascertain the complexity or severity of the children's learning disabili- ties; however, it seems necessary to point out how important it is to recognize - even retrospectively - those children who will not improve without expert remedial assistance. One may assume that such late diagnosis and placement is counter-productive to the generally recognized findings that the earliest possible remedial assistance is most useful in helping children learn alternate strategies for learning, and experience success in the academic setting. The potential damage to the child's self-esteem, and the potential prolonged stress on the family members, would appear to be relatively high in those cases where children's learning difficulties are not addressed in an aggressive fashion. There may be of course other related factors which influenced the long interval period, which have not been identified in this small exploratory study. It is not clear what factors within the child or within the child's ecological environment are responsible for the observation that up to 5 years elapsed between initial testing (recognition of learning disability) and eventual placement in a special remedial centre. 5.3 Implications for Educational System In order to encourage fathers and mothers to be active and effective change agents with their learning disabled children, they have to be seen and experienced as equal partners in the process of remedial education programming. Such equality is not easy to achieve with 'professional institutions', but is a goal well worth aiming at. It seems useful to indicate areas of need that can be addressed at the local school level in order to assist parents to be effective partners in education. It would be most helpful if parents were seen as requiring 'education' for this pro-active role, in the following areas: 1. information on techniques for effective utilization of the school's various resources: Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 136 L.A.C, peer 'buddy' system, groups of similar children working with school coun- sellor, and so on; 2. clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the various school personnel, the school-based team, and the area and/or School Board resource personnel; perhaps in a simplified, even 'cartoon', handout for ease in understanding; 3. training in effective parent-teacher-child conferences, where the focus is on recog- nizing strengths to assist in overcoming apparent weak areas, and all parties enjoy equal dignity and respect for their input; 4. clear and concise outcome goals addressing the child's learning difficulties as well as the child's social learning needs, written, with outcome criteria, evaluation pro- cedures; 5. close monitoring of the particular children tested/observed for apparent learning disabilities, in order to have interventions begun as early as possible (note the dys- function of having long waiting lists for specialized personnel, either for educational testing, for placement, or for consultation); 6. both short-term and long-term planning in place for these target children, discussed with the parents, and part of their educational programming jointly developed; 7. reducing stress on the child, and avoiding disruption of the child's social ecology; wherever possible, the child should receive expert special education remediation within their home school, rather than short-term transfers to 'central' school clinics such as the T & E centres; 8. additional assistance provided to parents: i.e., to increase their sense of self- mastery, improve their parenting skills in regard to parenting a learning disabled Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 137 child, reducing family tensions, teaching parents encouragement techniques, facil- itative communication skills, and the like; through parenting study groups, edu- cational evening 'seminars' on specific topics of interest to this group of parents, and providing (or referring) individualized counselling for those parent(s) who may need and benefit by such short-term assistance. 5.3.1 Implications for Counsellors Frequently, the fathers in this study (as well as parents from the many parenting study groups facilitated by the author) volunteered some of their experiences in parent-teacher conferences, or in school-based team meetings concerning their child. Overwhelmingly, they reported feeling intimidated by the number of 'professional' people present, confu- sion about the names, roles, responsibilities of the various personnel, bewilderment about the apparent jargon being used, and frequently, parents did not perceive themselves as being consulted concerning their child's educational difficulties and possible placement considerations. Clearly, if parents have a strong supportive relationship with some mem- bers) of the school personnel involved with their child, such stressful experiences might be minimized. There are several potential staff persons who might best develop such a supportive and mediating role with parents. Who it is is less important than that there is some one or more persons taking on that role with parents of children with learning disabilities. School counsellors are trained in facilitative communication and problem-solving tech- niques, and might find ways to meet with parents in groups if not in one-on-one meet- ings. But, the school Learning Assistance Teacher, the special educational consultant, the school principal, any of these may be appropriate persons for this facilitative role. Counsellors may be effective 'buffers' for parents interfacing with teachers and other Chapter 5. RESEARCH and COUNSELLING IMPLICATIONS 138 expert educational personnel. For strategies to be effective in meeting the child's partic- ular and individual needs, parents may need assistance in working with the child's school consultants effectively. If one keeps in mind that all parties are attempting to work to- gether in meeting the whole child's needs, then a cooperative egalitarian relationship is most likely to develop. Each member of the child's team has a role to play in both giving and receiving information relevant to the whole child, as well as in acting as an effective change agent. 5.4 Summary As we have seen from the research described in this thesis, fathers have an important role to play in the process of parenting a child diagnosed with a learning disability, and in interacting with various involved professionals in the field. Fathers' complementary socialization role, with unique parenting features involved, would provide the educational staff with a greater richness of information about the child, and with a broader perspective on the child in his social context. Such a 'whole-child' approach to the child's educational programming may be most useful in maximizing the strengths of the child in coping with the learning disabilities observed. 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Gender and marital status differences in control and distress: Common stress versus unique stress explanations. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1, 7-22. [150] Thoits, P.A. 1986. Social support as coping assistance. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54 (4), 416-423. [151] Trute, B. and Hauch, C. 1988. Building on family strength: A study of families with positive adjustment to the birth of a developmentally disabled child. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 14 (2), 175-184. [152] Unger, D.G., and Powell, D.R. 1980. Supporting families under stress: The role of social networks. Family Relations, 29, 566-574. [153] Vadasy, P.F., Fewell, R.R., Meyer, D.J., Schell, G., and Greenberg, M.T. 1984. Involved parents: characteristics and resources of fathers and mothers of young handicapped children. Journal of the Division for Early Childhood, 8 (1), 13-25. [154] Walsh, F. 1983. Normal family ideologies: Myths and realities. In James C. Hansen & Celia Jaes Falicov (Eds.), Cultural perspectives in family therapy. MD: Aspen Systems Corporation. 1-14. Bibliography 156 [155] Wethington, E., and Kessler, R.C. 1986. Perceived support, received support, and adjustment to stressful life events. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 27, 78-89. [156] Wikler, L. 1981. Chronic stresses of families of mentally retarded children. Family Relations,' 30, (2), 281-288. [157] Wikler, L., Masow, M., and Hatfield, E. 1981. Chronic sorrow revisited: Parent vs professional depiction of the adjustment of parents of mentally retarded children. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 51, 63-70. [158] Wilcox, B.L. and Vernberg, E.M. 1985. Conceptual and theoretical dilemmas facing social support. In I.G. Sarason &; B.R. Sarason (Eds.), Social support: Theory, re- search and applications. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 3-20. [159] Willner, S.K. and Crane, R. 1979. A parental dilemma: The child with a marginal handicap. Social Casework. 60, 30-35. [160] Wills, T.A. 1985. Supportive functions of interpersonal relationships. In S. Cohen & S.L. Syme (Eds.), Social support and health. N.Y., NY: Academic Press, Inc. 61-82. A p p e n d i x D D e m o g r a p h i c I n f o r m a t i o n INFORMATION SHEET Notct Fot confidentiality purposes, aa identification namber will be assigned oo a random basis. I i you have any questions about confidentiality, please ask your interviewer to explain further. Thank yon. N U M B E R : A G E : _ E M P L O Y E D ? Full-time/Part-time? WIFE, Employed? Full-time/Part-time? STBUNG(S): Sister: Age: Brother Age: T A R G E T C H I L D : Boy: Gi r l : Age: D A T E (month/year) child referred for testing (for school difficulties): D A T E (month/year) child placed on waiting list for specialized center (Le., T. ic E . Center): C O M P L E T E D (months/years ago); OR, currently in T. Ic E . Center: P R E S E N T L Y child is in: (For example! is your child in regular school without learning assistance; or, regular school with learning assistance — part-time or full-time; or, in specialized learning center fulltime?) What do you understand his/her difficulties to be? What do you understand to be the cause of his/her difficulties? What are your expectations for your child's future? Have your expectations changed as a result of learning about your child's learning difficulties? Please ask if you wish further assistance or information. Thank you for assisting with this research project. You will be informed of research results when completed, if you so desire. 160 Appendix E Perceived Social Support from Family PSS-Fa QUESTIONNAIRE Directions: The statements which follow refer to feelings and experiences which occur to most people at one time or another in their relationships with families. For each statement there are three possible answers: Yes, No, Don't know. Please CIRCLE the answer you choose for each item. Yes No Don't know 1. My family gives me the moral support I need. Yes No Don't know :. I get good ideas about how to do things or make things from my family. Yes No Don't know 3. Most other people are closer to their family than I am. Yes No Don't know 4. When I confide in the members of my family who are clos- est to me, I get the idea that it makes them uncomfortable. Yes No Don't know s. My family enjoys hearing about what I think. Yes No Don't know 6. Members of my family share many of my interests. Yes No Don't know 7. Certain members of my family come to me when they have problems or need advice. Yes No Don't know 8. I rely on my family for emotional support. Yes No Don't know 9. There is a member of my family I could go to if I were just feeling down, without feeling funny about it later. Yes No Don't know 10. My family and I are very open about what we think about things. Yes No Don't know 11. My family is sensitive to my personal needs. Yes No Don't know 12. Members of my family come to me for emotional support. Yes No Don't know 13. Members of my family are good at helping me solve problems. Yes No Don't know U . I have a deep sharing relationship with a number of mem- bers of my family. Yes No Don't know 15. Members of my family get good ideas about how to do things or make things from me. Yes No Don't know 16. When I confide in members of my family, it makes me uncomfortable. Yes No Don't know 17. Members of my family seek me out for companionship. Yes No Don't know 18. I think that my family feels that I'm good at helping them solve problems. Yes No Don't know 19. I don't have a relationship with a member of my family that is as close as other people's relationships with family members. Yes No Don't know 20. I wish my family were much different. 161 A p p e n d i x F P e r c e i v e d S o c i a l S u p p o r t f r o m F r i e n d s PSS-Fr QUESTIONNAIRE Directions: The statements which follow refer to feelings and experiences which occur to most people at one time or another is their relationships with friends. For each statement there are three possible answers: Yet, No, Don't knov. Please CIRCLE the answer you choose for each item. Yes No Don't know 1. My friends give me the moral support I need. Yes No Don't know 2. Most other poeple are closer to their friends than I am. Yes No Don't know 3. My friends enjoy hearing about what I think. Yes No Don't know 4. Certain friends come to me when they have problems or need advice. Yes No Don't know 5. I rely on my friends for emotional support. Yes No Don't know 6. If I felt that one or more of my friends were upset with me, I'd just keep it to myself. Yes No Don't know 7. I feel that I'm on the fringe in my circle of friends. Yes No Don't know 8. There is a friend I could go to if I were just feeling down, without feeling funny about it later. Yes No Don't know 9. My friends and I are very open about what we think about things. Yes No Don't know 10. My friends are sensitive to my personal needs. Yes No Don't know 11. My friends come to me for emotional support. Yes No Don't know 12. My friends are good at helping me solve problems. Yes No Don't know 13. I have a deep sharing relationship with a number of friends. Yes No Don't know 14. My friends get good ideas about how to do things or make things from me. Yes No Don't know 15. When I confide in friends, it makes me feel uncomfortable. Yes No Dcn't know 16. My friends seek me out for companionship. Yes No Don't know 17/ I think that my friends feel that I'm good a( helping them solve problems. Yes No Don't know 18. I don't have a relationship with a friend that is as intimate as other people's relationships with friends. Yes No Don't know 19. I've recently gotten a good idea about how to do something from a friend. Yes No Don't know 20. I wish my friends were much different. 162 Appendix G Instructions for Q-SORT, with Introduction 163 Appendix G. Instructions for Q-SORT, with Introduction 164 I N T R O D U C T I O N In parenting your child (with learning difficulties), you may have experienced unusual or unexpected concerns or problems. You may have needed or wanted information, special help, someone to talk with, guidance, advice, and the like. Perhaps you found people giving you what you wanted; perhaps you found yourself seeking out particular people. This exercise is a way of looking at those experiences you may have had, or are having presently. I N S T R U C T I O N S fo r S O R T I N G C A R D S S T E P S • Read the K E Y S E N T E N C E at the top of the mat, and continue to refer to it as you work through this activity. • Now take out the cards and spread them over the table in front of you. Take a few minutes to look through them, becoming familiar with them. There are 41 cards. • One at a time, sort the cards into 2 groups, with approximately 20 cards in each pile. One pile is labelled 'HIGH', the other, 'LOW. The right-hand pile, 'HIGH' will be the people (or groups of people) that you are MOST involved with when you have concerns about your child. The left-hand pile, 'LOW, will be those you are LEAST involved with. N O T E : You will probably find that you may wish to move cards from one pile to another while sorting them. Please do so freely, until you feel satisfied with your sorting. Appendix G. Instructions for Q-SORT, with Introduction 165 • Take up the 'HIGH' pile, and begin to sort it further, by first selecting one card which you believe is the one most like your usual behaviour. Place it on the extreme right spot on the mat. Note that you will place only one card on that spot, as shown by the number 1 above the spot. Continue selecting cards, placing the two cards which you believe are the next two most like your usual behaviour, on the second spot. Note that there is a 2 above that spot, signifying that two and only two cards must be placed there. Continue in this way, working from the most spot, towards the middle, or more neutral spot, until you have finished with the HIGH' pile. • When you feel satisfied with sorting out the 20 cards in the 'HIGH' pile, take up the 'LOW pile', and begin sorting in a similar way as before. First, select the one card which you believe is the one least like your usual behaviour. Place that one card on the extreme left spot on the mat. Again, you will place only one card on that spot as shown by the number 1 above the spot. Continue selecting cards, next placing the two cards which you believe are the next two least like your usual behaviour, on the second spot. Note that there is a 2 above that spot, signifying that two and only two cards must be placed there. Continue in this way, working from the least spot, towards the middle, or more neutral spot. You may continue to move cards freely from one pile to another as you work through them, but be sure to end up with only the final number for each spot as is indicated by the number above each spot. • When you are finished sorting all the cards, check each pile to ensure that there are the number of cards in each pile corresponding to the code number above. • When you feel satisfied with your final sortings, please inform your interviewer. At that time, he/she will be free to answer any questions you may have. Appendix G. Instructions for Q-SORT, with Introduction 166 I would like to thank you very sincerely for participating in this research study. If you would be interested in obtaining a summary copy of this research, please leave your name and address with the interviewer. [See following Appendices H, I, for further information on the Q-sort statement items, and Q-sort format with weighted scoring procedure used.] Appendix H Q—Sort Statements 167 Appendix H. Q-Sort Statements 168 KEY SENTENCE: When I have concerns about my child, my usual behaviour is to 1. Seek out my spouse. 2. Wait for my spouse to provide me with the support I need. 3. Share my concerns with my spouse. 4. Find that my family members provide me with the support I need. 5. Go to my family. 6. Spend relaxation time with family members. 7. Go for specific help to my friend(s). 8. Wait for my friend(s) to provide me with the support I need. 9. Talk with my friend(s). 10. Spend relaxation time with friend(s). 11. Talk with my spouse's family. 12. Wait for my spouse's family members to provide me with the support I need. 13. Talk with my spouse's friends about my child. 14. Find that my spouse's friends provide me with the support I need. Appendix H. Q-Sort Statements 169 15. Go for specific help to my spouse's friend(s). 16. Wait for my neighbour to help. 17. Talk with my neighbour(s). 18. Seek help from my neighbour(s). 19. Ask my colleague(s) for information and ideas. 20. Share my concerns with my colleague(s). 21. Talk with my boss. 22. Spend relaxation time with acquaintances. 23. Expect my acquaintances to provide me with the support I need. 24. Seek assistance from my acquaintances. 25. Talk with my (a) bartender. 26. Talk with my (a) barber/hairstylist. 27. Talk with my (a) waiter/waitress. 28. Talk with strangers (a stranger). 29. Talk with my child's principal. 30. Go to my child's teacher. 31. Discuss them with my child's teacher. 32. Discuss them with my child's school counsellor. Appendix H. Q-Sort Statements 170 33. Go to the school consultants working with my child. 34. Expect my child's school personnel to provide me with the support I need. 35. Initiate assistance from the school board personnel. 36. Wait for my doctor to help. 37. Go to my doctor for assistance. 38. Go to my clergy (...) for help. 39. Find that my clergy (...) provide me with the support I need. 40. Talk with my counsellor (...). 41. Seek out experts to help. A p p e n d i x I Q - s o r t F o r m a t The following table details out the weighting procedure used in scoring the Q-sort state- ment items, sorted into piles by the 15 fathers. Table 1.17: Q-sort procedure & weighting used Subject sorts all 41 items onto 9 piles: Number of items to be placed on each pile: 1 2 4 8 11 8 4 2 1 Corresponding to how the item behaviour answers the Key Question: "Least like" "Somewhat like" "Most like" Scores are weighted for each pile: 1 2 3 4 5 thus, each item receives a weighted score from 1 — 9 171 A p p e n d i x J R a n k o r d e r o f Q - s o r t s t a t e m e n t s , a l l s u b g r o u p s o f fa thers In the following table is the rank ordering of the 41 Q-sort statements, not only for the total 15 fathers, but also for the subgroups of fathers mentioned in the text of the study. Note the following descriptive labels: h i g h refers to subgroup: perceived high support; l o w refers to subgroup: perceived low support; w o r k refers to subgroup: wives employed full/part-time; n o t refers to subgroup: wives at-home, not working; 1st refers to subgroup: lst-born target child; s u b s refers to subgroup: target child 2nd or 3rd-born; p re refers to subgroup: target child of preteen age; t een refers to subgroup: target child of teenage years; s h o r t refers to subgroup: interval time of < 2 years; l o n g refers to subgroup: interval time of 3 5 years; * marks off the rank order where the Z score was ±1, i.e., a boundary of significance. 172 Appendix J. Rank order of Q-sort statements, all subgroups of fathers 173 Table J.18: Q-sort statement rank orders Final Rank ALL n = 15 high = 7 low = 8 work = 10 not = 5 1st = 8 subs pre = 9 teen = 6 short = 10 long = 5 1st 3 3 3 3 3 1 3 3 3 3 3 2nd 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 30 1 1 Srd 30 30 30 30 2 30 30 30 1 30 30 4th 31 9 31 31 41 41 31 41 31 31 41 5th 41 41 41 33 31 *9 33 2 33 41 31 6th *33 33 2 •41 *30 33 *41 *31 *41 33 9 7th. 37 *31 •33 32 6 5 37 33 32 37 *33 8th 9 5 27 37 9 31 2 9 5 *5 32 9th 32 29 32 9 37 6 32 37 9 2 20 10th 2 7 5 29 20 29 29 6 37 29 2 Uth 5 37 29 5 5 37 34 29 29 9 29 12th 29 32 35 34 11 32 5 32 34 32 24 13th 20 20 9 2 33 2 9 5 2 6 37 14th 34 34 20 7 29 20 35 20 20 34 19 15th 4 4 34 20 32 4 20 35 4 4 7 16th 6 6 19 • 4 4 24 7 4 7 35 34 17th 35 2 6 35 24 7 19 11 35 20 5 18th 7 24 4 19 35 34 4 34 19 11 4 19th 19 15 11 15 19 11 15 19 24 7 35 20th 24 19 40 24 10 19 40 7 15 15 17 21st 15 35 24 6 34 15 24 24 21 19 6 22nd 11 18 15 13 15 35 6 15 8 24 8 23rd 13 11 7 40 40 13 21 13 6 40 18 24th 40 13 10 8 12 10 11 10 40 13 10 25th 10 17 13 14 38 17 13 14 13 10 14 26th 14 10 12 10 7 14 10 40 36 14 23 27th 17 14 14 11 14 8 36 12 18 12 22 28th 8 8 22 17 13 40 14 17 23 18 15 29th 18 40 17 18 17 18 8 22 10 8 13 30th 12 21 8 21 22 22 18 8 17 36 40 31st 21 23 36 23 18 12 12 18 14 17 21 32nd 36 36 21 36 39 23 17 36 11 21 36 33rd 22 38 18 12 36 38 22 38 38 38 11 34th 23 39 38 22 8 36 38 21 22 39 12 35th 38 16 23 •38 21 39 23 *23 39 22 38 36th *39 12 *39 16 *16 *16 *39 16 12 •23 *28 37th 16 •22 16 39 23 21 16 39 *16 16 39 38th 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 27 16 39th 26 27 26 27 26 26 26 27 26 28 26 40th 27 26 27 26 27 27 27 26 27 26 27 41st 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 A p p e n d i x K Q - A n a l y s i s D a t a Principal components table — Q-analysis X 1 X 2 X 3 X 4 X 5 X 6 X 1 1.00000 X 2 0.70690 1.00000 X 3 0.76724 0.73276 1.00000 X 4 0.55172 0.62931 0.62067 1.00000 X 5 0.73888 0.66499 0.72216 0.66499 1.00000 X 6 0.67984 0.76887 0.67175 0.70412 0.71831 1.00000 X 7 0.67698 0.62919 0.61326 0.52565 0.56960 0.77618 X8 0.71552 0.64655 0.67241 0.62069 0.73888 0.75268 X 9 0.57032 0.62139 0.73205 0.62990 0.64001 0.67206 X 10 0.69827 0.70690 0.66377 0.59483 0.57468 0.67984 X 11 0.67596 0.66706 0.68485 0.65817 0.66956 0.70894 X 12 0.66379 0.73276 0.74130 0.64655 0.76351 0.62319 X 13 0.75862 0.75862 0.65517 0.68965 0.68962 0.81743 X 14 0.62069 0.72414 0.58621 0.59483 0.64857 0.77696 X 15 0.67241 0.61207 0.70690 0.62069 0.71425 0.67175 X 7 X 8 X 9 X 10 X 11 X 12 X 7 1.00000 X 8 0.63716 1.00000 X 9 0.62166 0.72354 1.00000 X 10 0.62123 0.75862 0.58734 1.00000 X 11 0.53372 0.72932 0.71158 0.69375 1.00000 X 12 0.44601 0.68103 0.62990 0.65517 0.78269 1.00000 X 13 0.63509 0.75862 0.55329 0.75862 0.77379 0.72414 X 14 0.65309 0.75862 0.58734 0.75000 0.51586 0.55172 X 15 0.63716 0.61207 0.57883 0.55172 0.60480 0.57759 X 13 X 14 X 15 X 13 1.00000 X 14 0.75862 1.00000 X 15 0.65517 0. 56897 1.00000 174


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