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A qualitative exploration of the parenting experiences of ex-military fathers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

APA Citation:

Sturgeon, M., Burgess, G. H., & Murphy, D. (2023). A qualitative exploration of the parenting experiences of ex-military fathers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Journal of Family Studies, 29(5), 2408-2429. https://doi.org/10.1080/13229400.2023.2185160

Abstract Created by REACH:

According to the cognitive-behavioral interpersonal theory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PTSD can affect family relationships through symptoms of avoidance and accommodation, distorted cognitive processes, and emotional disturbances. Using this lens, 10 Veteran fathers in the United Kingdom who had been diagnosed with PTSD were interviewed to understand how they perceived their relationship with their child and their role as a father. Participating fathers had children between the ages of 3 and 48 years old. 4 themes were identified that described Veterans’ experiences of parenting with PTSD.



Branch of Service:

International Military

Military Affiliation:


Subject Affiliation:

Child of a service member or veteran


Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
Aged (65 yrs & older)


Qualitative Study
Cross sectional study


Sturgeon, Michaela, Burgess, Gerald H., Murphy, Dominic


The experience of post-traumatic stress has been implicated in adverse outcomes for trauma-exposed parents and their children. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore how ex-military service (veteran) fathers who had received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience and make sense of parenthood, their role as a father, and the parent-child relationship. Ten ex-military fathers from the UK who had been diagnosed with PTSD engaged in interviews which were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The analysis resulted in four themes; ‘Not always being the father I want to be’, ‘Striving to protect’, ‘Developing insight and understanding’, and ‘Protective influence of children’. These themes captured participants’ experiences of the perceived negative impact of PTSD symptoms on parenting and an evolving view of the self as a parent in relation to this, taking action to protect children from distress and harm, the importance of developing insights and understanding both personally and within parent-child relationships, and the distracting and motivating influence of children and enjoyment of the parenting role despite the challenges experienced in the context of a PTSD diagnosis. Findings are discussed in relation to the extant literature, and clinical and research implications are outlined.

Publication Type:

REACH Publication


qualitative exploration, veterans, fathers, PTSD

View Research Summary:

REACH Publication Type:

Research Summary

REACH Newsletter:

  July 2023

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