Date of Award

5-17-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Nursing

First Advisor

Fayron Epps

Second Advisor

Ptlene Minick-Pender

Third Advisor

Gary E. Bingham

Fourth Advisor

Jiwon Lee

Abstract

The number of military fathers separated from their children due to a combat deployment increases as the Global War on Terrorism continues. Father absence may have negative effects on child wellbeing, including behavioral and mental health issues. Communication is important to the father-child relationship, especially when separated thousands of miles away. The Army (Active Duty, Reserves, and National Guard) has deployed more military members than the Air Force, Navy, and Marines combined. However, there is a paucity of literature regarding how Army fathers, particularly National Guard (NG) fathers, communicate with their young children during combat deployment. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of NG fathers of young children to understand more about communication patterns used to maintain the father-child relationship while deployed to a combat zone.

Interpretive phenomenology provided a framework to study and interpret the experiences of eight NG fathers deployed to a combat zone. Data analysis of semistructured interviews with 8 NG fathers was completed using the interpretive method. Four themes emerged from the interviews with NG fathers: 1) don’t forget me; 2) we make sacrifices; 3) a father’s role; and 4) being a National Guard father means pride.

NG fathers articulated the importance of their fathering role and the great lengths they went through to maintain the father-child relationship during combat deployment. NG fathers felt there were sacrifices they and their families made in support of the military mission. Although NG fathers used many strategies to stay connected to their young children, these fathers still felt a loss of their fathering identity. NG fathers and their families exhibited a sense of pride in the NG father’s service to his country, despite the sacrifices they make. This study contributes to nursing knowledge by increasing the understanding of the needs of NG fathers and their families during a combat deployment.

Recommendations for nursing practice, education, and research were identified in this study and include: early assessment and intervention to reduce negative outcomes, health policies to support this population, and research to determine specific needs and the effects of maternal gatekeeping during combat deployment.

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