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The lived experience of fathers of young adult children with schizophrenia Wiens, Sandra Ellen

Abstract

A qualitative phenomenological research method was used to explore and describe the lived experience of six fathers of young adult children with schizophrenia who volunteered to participate in this study. The following six themes emerged from the analysis of these fathers' stories through the seven steps of phenomenological analysis outlined by Colaizzi (1978): reflection on roles and responsibilities, a sense of devastation and vulnerability, a sense of sadness and loss, a sense of frustration with the mental health system, a sense of admiration for their child, and a sense of having gained personally. The findings of the study indicated that reflection on their early roles and responsibilities as fathers before the onset of their child's illness helped the participants in this study make meaning of the roles and responsibilities they assumed as their child's illness progressed. The participants experienced a sense of devastation and vulnerability when their child received the diagnosis of schizophrenia, as they began to face the realities of living with a child with schizophrenia, and especially when dealing with crisis situations. They also experienced a sense of sadness and loss. Five kinds of losses were described: loss of who their child once was, loss of their child's potential to be productive, loss of dreams for their child's future, loss experienced in fathers' present lives, as well as loss of hopes and dreams for their own future. A sense of frustration was reported in response to various aspects of the mental health system. Two additional themes emerged from the analysis of the participants' stories that were not reported as themes in previous studies: a sense of admiration for their child and a sense of having gained personally. The study concludes with a discussion of implications for counselling practice, implications for mental health policy, as well as implications for future research.

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