Little work has been done on the impact of chronic illness on the child’s father. Fathers might be expected
to suffer role strain along similar lines to that of the mother with limitation in career and social life.
Economic constraints might be keenly felt by the fathers. Given that over 40% of new fathers show some
signs of distress and disturbance (Dudley et al, 1996) it is likely that chronic illness in the child will have a
similar effect on the fathers emotional adjustment. Dudley’s study showed that disturbed fathers face
great difficulties in attaching and relating to their new children, and they are highly unlikely to be able to
offer support and assistance to their partners. Family relationships in such cases can be particularly
stretched if the child has a chronic illness.
Fathers also worry about what the future holds for their children (field, 1990) as well as their ability to
manage the increasing financial burden. Some escape in their work as a means of dulling the pain. Others
view all of the difficulties of having a child with special needs as challenges to overcome, and are not afraid
to push limits and be assertive to acquire the needed services for their children (Davies and May, 1991).
Relationships conflicts may arise if one partner views his or her share as unequal. The partner who is not
included in the care giving activities may feel neglected since all the attention is directed towards the child
and resentful that he or she has not had the opportunity to become competent in the care of the child
Without active participation in the caring activities, the parent has little appreciation of the time and energy
involved in performing them. When the less competent partner does attempt to participate the other
parent frequently criticizes the less skillful efforts. As a result communication breaks down and neither is
able to support the other. Unfortunately these problems are seldom recognized until they are well
established rather than earlier, when intervention can be most effective.
It can be extremely difficult on siblings and they can experience some emotional and behavioural
problems. The child with health problems may receive a disproportionate share of parental care and
attention. The sibling without the illness must adapt to this imbalance as well as to increased
responsibilities, high parental expectations and fear about their siblings illness. Furthermore siblings may
experience long separations from their mothers when the ill or disabled child is hospitalised. (Breslau et al,
1981; Darling, 1987; Lavigne & Ryan, 1979)
They can also have a fear of the unknown eg fears of what the treatments/hospitalisaions are like, fears of
self or other family members becoming ill. There can also be some negativity about how the ill child and
siblings are disciplined and also a perceived sense of guilt as though they somehow caused the illness.
It is difficult for older children and almost impossible for younger children to comprehend the plight of the
affected child. Their perception is of a brother or sister who has the undivided attention of their parents,
is showered with cards and gifts, and is the focus of everyone's concern.
THE EFFECTS OF A CHRONIC ILLNESS IN THE FAMILY