Children with disabilities experience levels of stress due to the mental and physical challenges; society does not intake a parent’s experience. Parental stress, from the parent of a disabled child, exhibit higher levels of stress compared to a parent with a non-disabled child (Cuzzocrea, Murdaca., Filippello, & Larcan, 2016). Stressors between a parent with a non-disabled child and a disabled child are diverse. A parent with a non-disabled child may experience usual stressors, such as instructing their child to maintain a clean bedroom, remind them to do their chores, redirecting negative behaviors, etc. However, a parent of a disabled child handles challenges. Depending on the child’s diagnosis, challenges can be redirecting a child from repeatedly hitting their face (self-harm), low cognitive development, nonverbal no matter how many communication lessons, physical impairments that some children cannot walk or in some cases need assistance feeding themselves, and so on. Due to the unique and various physical and mental impairments, parents need to adjust their lifestyle so they can accommodate their disabled child. Accommodating their child is not as simple as most may observe. Parents can experience financial burdens, depression, exhaustion, stereotyped (some religious beliefs view disability as punishment), feelings of social isolation (cultures’ pity and stigma), and concerns about lifelong care or other challenges of the child (Lindo, Kliemann, Combes, & Frank, 2016). When a parent experiences stress, the child can also be affected by it. Affectively addressing parental stress is crucial for the enhancement of a child's well‐being and functioning within the family and larger society as well as for the parents' well‐being (Lindo, Kliemann, Combes, & Frank, 2016). Recognizably, stress isn’t pleasurable nor comfortable; it can negatively affect the mind and body.
A qualitative research method could benefit the study of the parental stress the parents of a disabled child experience. It can also evaluate the best intervention for parents to cope with it. Qualitative research is a form of inquiry that analyzes the information (non-numerical) conveyed through language and behavior in the natural environment (Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong, 2013). This method can also gather information regarding culture, emotions, values, beliefs, etc. Qualitative research comes in many different approaches and can be conducted as open-minded questions because the answers can provide beneficial information. This is one of the advantages of phenomenology; it is a tradition that includes a variety of approaches and encourages individuality and creativity, primary interest of human life experiences (Hopkins, Roger, & Pratt, 2017). Based on this research, a phenomenological interview is believed that this qualitative method is suited effective for this research.
Phenomenological method can provide insight on a behavior or situation. Phenomenology allows us to understand and appreciate educational issues by exploring the unique experiences and perspectives of individuals involved in the process (Hopkins, Regehr, & Pratt, 2017). This method conducts its research with interviews, observe backgrounds, exploring locations, participating in similar events, in order to understand the parent’s stress. Phenomenological method will rely on the parents’ outlook of the study (Monette, Sullivan, & DeJong, 2013). The difference from other qualitative methods, phenomenological research doesn’t begin its study with a theory. The practitioner will choose between which type of phenomenological approach to conduct in the research. They’re hermeneutic interpretation of the texts in order to explore lived experiences and transcendental focuses on parents’ meaning of an experience of a situation (Chrisflip. 2014). An example of a hermeneutic question could be, “what experienced stressors that parents of a disabled child have,” that is interpreted through written material such as past research, internet written blogs, social media, such as Facebook. Transcendental phenomenology is more directed, asking for example, “what is it like to be a parent of a disable child,” or, “what stressors parents of disabled children experience and how they handle those stressors?” For this research, transcendental phenomenology is beneficial. Once a phenomenology is chosen, the practitioner will begin this phase called bracketing. Bracketing is where the practitioner has to get of their own perceptive and personal experiences to truly understand the phenomenon of the subjects that are part of the research (Chrisflip, 2014). According to my experience, I researched paternal stress of my proposal of what and how to manage parental stress as a parent of a disabled child. Although I personally know and understand the paternal stress, I have to place my feelings and experiences aside for me to personally experience other parent’s feelings and experiences. This step is choosing the appropriate subjects in this research study. Although paternal stress is directed to parents of the disabled child, paternal stress can also be directed to any caretaker of the disabled child. This can be grandparents, other family members, foster parents, perhaps teachers, daycare teachers, and other care-takers that is always around the child. The number of subjects can be at least five interviews, however, the larger number of subjects to interview to conduct can be useful until there is no newer information to case-note. In the interview, it should consist at least one or two open-ended questions related to the phenomenon, or in this case, being a parent of a disabled child. The rest of the interview questions will still relate to the phenomenon, only to be asked with a different type of question. The interview can consist of a certain amount of questions that is decided on the practitioner. It is best to keep the interview short and not complicated or confusing to respond to in order to receive a positive statement from the interview. After all interviews are completed, the practitioner will need to complete a data analysis. Data analysis utilizes horizonalization. This is considered “significant statements” gathered from the interview that describe the experience of the focused phenomenon. For example, significant statements are statements from the parent of the disabled child that describe their experience. The significant statements can discover exactly what experience the parent encounters and how they do and manage it. The data will give the essence of the phenomenon (Chrisflip, 2014). This will give observers an opportunity to absorb an experience of the phenomenon, as observers receiving an understanding of what it is like to be a parent of a disabled child. Observer can then understand the challenges that cause the paternal stressors as well.
As beneficial as phenomenon method can be, there are limitations when utilizing for research purposes. One of the first issues researchers may experience is the difficulty in recruiting participants to interview. There could be many reasons why it can be difficult to gather participants. For example, it can be that some individuals just simply don’t want to participant or it can be too personal for them to answer the questions. Another issue can be that there is simply not enough time to provide and gather data; it can take up more time than expected. The data gather can also be difficult to interpret. Depending on the responses, some of them can be difficult, even when bracketing takes place, there is no certainty that there is bias or not from the practitioner in the research. Including that if there was a small number of participants, even if the least amount is meant by five, those results of that small number of participants cannot determine results of other individuals. In this case other parents cannot experience the same stressors based on a small group. Perhaps it may be certain results if there is a large number of participants for the research. Finally, in limitations, cultural context may be a challenge in the interviews. Depending of the background culture, there are some cultures that dismiss disabilities, especially mental disabilities. Those diagnosis with a mental disability exhibit obvious stereotyped, statuses as “crazy.” Or there is some culture where they believe the doctor could be “over exaggerating” or “they don’t know what they’re speaking of.” These responses can be difficult to interpret.
Since it is confirmed that the phenomenon method is the best qualitative approach for the research topic of paternal stress handled by parents of disabled children. There are pros and cons from utilizes the phenomenon method however it still is the most beneficial approach for the research proposal pf paternal stress. Completing interviews from parents/caretakers is direct and unique data that can be easily gathered to compare and contrast the various experiences. The data can be valuable evidence for future, new interventions for parents to handle these stressors. The information can present to society the unnoticeable challenges parents of disabled children experience.
- Chrisflip. (2014, February 12). Phenomenology. Retrieved February 10, 2019, from https://youtu.be/7uNp7okdc-E
- Cuzzocrea, F., Murdaca, A. M., Costa, S., Filippello, P., & Larcan, R. (2016). Parental stress, coping strategies and social support in families of children with a disability. Child Care in Practice, 22(1), 3–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/13575279.2015.1064357
- Hopkins, R. M., Regehr, G., & Pratt, D. D. (2017). A framework for negotiating positionality in phenomenological research. Medical Teacher, 39(1), 20–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/0142159X.2017.1245854
- Lindo, E. J., Kliemann, K. R., Combes, B. H., & Frank, J. (2016). Managing Stress Levels of Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities: A Meta-Analytic Review of Interventions. Family Relations, 65(1), 207–224. https://doi.org/10.1111/fare.12185
- Monette, D., Sullivan, T., & DeJong, C. (2013). Applied social research: A tool for human services. Nelson Education.