Experiences of fatherhood among men who were sexually abused in childhood.

Background

Fatherhood is a complex psychological process, which is shaped at a profound level by reflections on past childhood memories and parenting experienced in childhood. Fathers who were sexually abused in childhood may experience particular challenges for their fathering identity and parenting role.

Objective

This qualitative study explored the experiences of fatherhood for men who were sexually abused in childhood and how they perceived themselves in the fathering role.

Participants and Setting

Eleven participants were recruited to the study from three therapy services for adult survivors of abuse in the Republic of Ireland.

Methods

Data collection comprised face to face semi-structured interviews, which were audio recorded and subsequently transcribed verbatim. Data analysis drew on Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis and two superordinate themes with associated subthemes were identified.

Results

Participants’ experience of childhood sexual abuse provided a lens through which they experienced fatherhood and themselves in a fathering role. Fatherhood influenced participants to confront unintegrated aspects of the trauma they experienced in childhood, which manifested in hypervigilance with regard to their children’s safety and doubt that they were good enough fathers. However, fatherhood also offered an opportunity to heal. This occurred through striving to provide a better father-child relationship and through connection in restorative relationships, including the therapeutic relationship.

Conclusion

Fatherhood was seen as a potential resource for positive change and can influence long held internal working models of the self and others.

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