The thesis “Fathers Involved in Children with Type 1 diabetes: finding the balance between disease control and health promotion” presupposes that both parents are important to the child and that fathers’ involvement should be considered a health resource in the child’s life.
– It is a human activity to care for a child, not a biologically inherited female characteristic, says Åse Boman, who is a lecturer in nursing science at the University West in Trollhättan.
The thesis is based on the analysis of how parents are depicted in the guidelines for children’s diabetes care in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and on discussions with Swedish pediatric diabetes team and their perception of fathers’ involvement, as well as on interviews with involved fathers of children with diabetes – how they view their own parenting and the support from the diabetes team.
Prevailing gender structures initially permeated the diabetes team’s perception of fathers’ involvement. A passive father’s lack of commitment needs no explanation, while the commitment of an active father is explained by the mother’s shortcomings.
– “If the father shows up we’re happy, but if the mother doesn’t, we become concerned”, as one pediatrician expressed it, says Åse Boman.
The fathers described a tension between the general professional recommendations for managing the child’s diabetes and their personal experiences of the daily life with their child.
– The real everyday life with the child was perceived as more complicated than was indicated by the diabetes team, which led some committed fathers to set up their own medical goals for the child. This could pose a threat to the child’s health and well-being, Åse Boman explains.
Fathers on parental leave are committed
The fathers’ involvement balanced between being controlling of the disease and supportive of the child’s independence. This balance seemed to be affected by the father’s relationship with the child’s mother and the feeling that their lives were seen by the diabetes team.
– It becomes clear that social structures, such as the guidelines for child diabetes care where disease control is dominant, and prevailing gender structures affect the fathers’ balance between control and health promotion, says Åse Boman.
– Another exciting result, Åse Boman concludes, is that 14 out of the 16 fathers who had been on parental leave jointly indicated that this had contributed to their commitment in their child with diabetes. The fathers who had been on parental leave are thus largely engaged in, and contributors to, their children’s health throughout their childhood. It is an effect of the economic and structural support for both parents to spend time with the young child.
Title: Fathers involved in children with type 1 diabetes: finding the balance between disease control and health promotion