That Young Woman, My Wee Girl. Fathers' Lived Experiences of their Daughters Leaving Home. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
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Background: A significant transition experienced by fathers in midlife is when a child leaves home. Literature on this so-called “empty nest” stage has focused largely on the child or on mothers. There has been a relative dearth of research both on men as fathers, and on fathers’ relationships with daughters. In addition, modern changes in family expectations suggest a need to revise our understandings of the leaving home transition. Aims: This study explores the experiences of fathers, as individuals in their own right, to understand their distinctive perspective on this launching period, and to illuminate and update the empty nest phenomenon. Method: Five fathers were interviewed about their experiences of a daughter leaving home. A semi-structured interview protocol was followed and the data analysed using the method of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings: Four main themes captured fathers' experiences: Meaning of being a dad of a daughter; Role loss and feelings of emptiness; Lack of emotional preparation, and how to let go; Need for reassurance, adjustment and to make sense of the change. Conclusion: These findings are consistent with much of the existing literature on the empty nest stage, and provide further findings from the experiences of fathers. Distinctive themes for these fathers, such as lack of emotional preparation, active support seeking, and the desire for reassurance, suggest a need for fathers to normalise their experiences, which may assist them with the significant transition in midlife fatherhood.