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Fathers experiences of sleeping problems in children with autism

Carol Ann Potter (Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 3 April 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of fathers in the management of sleeping problems in children with autism and their perspectives of the impact of these difficulties on family life.


Semi-structured interviews with 25 UK-based fathers of children with autism were undertaken.


Two-thirds of fathers reported that their children experienced severe sleeping problems in the areas of bed-time resistance, sleep onset and night-time waking. Fathers were significantly involved in the management of these difficulties and reported a range of associated deleterious impacts on the family, including significant negative effects on paternal and maternal health, father’s employment, couple relationship and sibling experiences.

Research limitations/implications

The interview sample cannot be said to be representative of all fathers of children with autism since the backgrounds of those taking part were relatively homogeneous in respect of ethnicity, marital status and level of education.

Practical implications

Improvements in effective, family-centred provision are urgently needed which employ a co-parenting, gender-differentiated methodology.

Social implications

Given the severity and frequency of difficulties, sleeping problems in children with autism should be viewed as a significant public health concern.


This is one of the first studies, qualitative or quantitative, to explore the role and perspectives of fathers of children with autism in the important area of sleep management.



Funding: This study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of the Research Fellowship scheme (Grant Number: RF-2013-343). Funders were not involved in any aspect of the design or implementation of the research.

Many thanks to the 25 fathers of children with autism who took time out of very busy lives to be interviewed. Thanks also to Dr Chris Whittaker for his on-going support throughout the research project and in particular for his comments on this paper. Finally, thanks to Roger Olley, MBE, Phil Heslop and Professor John Carpenter for their expert contribution to the verification group for the study.


Potter, C.A. (2017), "Fathers experiences of sleeping problems in children with autism", Advances in Autism, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 100-111.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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