Exploring the Research on Fathers with Disabilities

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day in the US and we’re honoring men with disabilities who are also parents!

Researchers from the NIDILRR-funded National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities (NRCPD) found that most of the studies about parenting with a disability focus on mothers with disabilities, or they combine mothers and fathers into a single category of “parents.”  Are we missing the experiences and needs of fathers? The NRCPD studies, described in Fatherhood with a Disability: Health and Unmet Needs, found that men with disabilities who were also parents were more likely to say they were in poor health, frequent physical distress, or frequent mental distress, compared to their peers who were not parents. These weren’t the only differences the researchers found. They also found differences in planned and unplanned births between fathers with and without disabilities, and between fathers and mothers with disabilities.

Searching the Literature

The authors suggest that research is needed to learn more about men with disabilities and their reproductive health, including what they know and learn about sex, contraception, and family planning. Turning to our REHABDATA databases, we found very few abstracts that discussed “fathers with disabilities”(including the studies discussed above) and even fewer that discussed men and sex education. We found more articles that discussed men and fertility, reproduction, or contraception or men and sexual function. We also searched for the phrase “fathers with disabilities” in Google Scholar and in PubMed and found very few results. We found slightly more in Google Scholar with the phrase “disabled fathers.” It is important to note that there are many studies about parents with disabilities, their health and wellbeing, their experiences and rights as parents, and much more. It may also be beneficial to have similar information specifically for fathers with disabilities.

Research is Happening

Important research into the health and participation of fathers with disabilities is happening. The NRCPD continues to study the experiences of fathers with disabilities and the data on the health needs of this community. In addition to their research projects, NRCPD gathers community perspectives on parenting with a disability, including publishing articles by fathers with disabilities in their blog. Another NIDILRR-funded project, Increasing Adaptive Babycare Resources and Intervention Supports with Parents and Caregivers with Physical or Vision Disabilities, is focusing on increasing access to adaptive babycare resources for parents and grandparents with disabilities, including fathers with disabilities.

Fathers with disabilities can benefit from many of the resources developed for parents and families by the NIDILRR grantee community including:

If you are looking for more research, information, or community supports for fathers with disabilities, please contact our Information Specialists who can connect you to resources in your area.

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