Yopp JM, Park EM, Edwards T, Deal A, Rosenstein DL. Overlooked and underserved: widowed fathers with dependent-age children. Palliat Support Care. 2015 Oct;13(5):1325-34. doi: 10.1017/S1478951514001321

OBJECTIVE: Widowed fathers and their children are at heightened risk for poor coping and maladaptive psychosocial outcomes. This exploratory study is the first to explicitly examine the psychological characteristics of this population of fathers.

METHOD: Some 259 fathers (mean age = 46.81; 90% Caucasian) with dependent-age children and whose wives had died from cancer within the previous five years completed a web-based survey that consisted of demographic questions, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), the Texas Inventory of Grief-Revised (TRIG-R), the Psychological Adaptation Scale (PAS), the Kansas Parental Satisfaction Scale (KPSS), and items assessing perceived parental efficacy.

RESULTS: Fathers were found to have elevated depressive (CES-D mean = 22.6) and grief (TRIG-R mean = 70.3) symptomatology, low adaptation (PAS mean = 3.2), and high levels of stress related to their parenting role. They reported being satisfied with their parenting (KPSS mean = 15.8) and having met their own parental expectations. Multivariate analyses revealed an association between father's age and depression (p = <0.01), with younger fathers reporting greater depressive symptoms. Psychological adaptation was positively correlated with being in a romantic relationship (p = 0.02) and age of oldest child (p = 0.02).

SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTSs: The results of our exploratory study suggest that, while widowed fathers perceive themselves as meeting their parental responsibilities, it comes at a substantial psychological cost, with particularly high stress related to being a sole parent. These findings may help guide interventions for this neglected population and underscore the importance of developing targeted therapies and research protocols to address their needs.

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