Experiences of Pasifika Fathers Who Care for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Apulu-Pamatatau, Nicholas Iloa
Shepherd, Daniel
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Bachelor of Health Science (Honours)
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Auckland University of Technology

This research explored the parenting experiences of Pasifika fathers’ caring for a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder living in New Zealand. Although caregiving is a highly examined topic that focuses on the challenges and demands placed upon caregivers and the resources that help caregivers overcome the challenges and demands, Polynesian parents being a specific area of interest is not greatly researched. Objective and subject burdens can sometimes outweigh resources which lead to stress, depression, and financial burdens. Caregivers manage burdens through several emotional, cognitive, and action-based coping mechanisms, which include, daily routine and planning, seeking social support and getting educated and aware of autism spectrum disorder.

Despite being valuable and effective, most of the established models were developed from maternal data compared to paternal experiences which are relatively unaccounted for. The national documented strategies and guidelines, specifically the New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guidelines (2008), and the most recent New Zealand Carers Strategy Action Plan 2019-2023, make it appropriate to embark on qualitative research to reach a level of in-depth and thorough understanding of Pasifika fathers’ experiences in New Zealand. Five Pasifika fathers were recruited to participate in this research through advertisements which were shared by two Pasifika focused support groups.

Data was collected through semi-structured interviews conducted via zoom. An interpretive phenomenological analysis was utilised to distinguish three superordinate theme categories: Support, coping mechanisms, and emotional aspects of parenting experiences. These superordinate themes consisted of seven emergent themes: 1) Experiences of support, 2) Support for Pasifika fathers’, 3) Getting educated and aware, 4) Pasifika cultural norms, 5) Daily routine and planning, 6) Positive emotions, and 7) Negative emotions. Furthermore, a subtheme was also identified which was ‘Reaction to diagnosis,’ and was categorised under coping mechanisms, emergent theme three. Research results support previous literature which highlighted the concerns for caregivers with children with autism, in terms of unmet information requirements and insufficient respite services. Furthermore, results also conveyed the significance and applicability of current government and organisational schemes, and recommendations can be applied to Pasifika fathers caring for a child with autism.

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