Background  The present study examined fathers’ perceptions of, stress relating to and involvement with children with Down's syndrome (DS) (n = 30) versus those with other types of intellectual disability (ID) (n = 20).

Methods  Fathers and mothers completed questionnaires about their children's personalities and maladaptive behaviours, their own parenting stress, and the fathers’ level of involvement.

Results  Both fathers and mothers rated their children with DS as having more positive personality traits and fewer maladaptive behaviours. Possibly because of these positive perceptions, fathers of children with DS also reported less child-related stress, particularly in the areas of acceptability, adaptability and demandingness. The two groups of fathers were very similarly involved in child rearing. The personality, age and maladaptive behaviours of the children related to stress levels in the fathers of children with DS, while maladaptive behaviours, gender and the fathers’ education levels related to stress levels in the fathers of children with other types of ID.

Conclusions  These results highlight the importance of examining parental stress and involvement with children with different types of ID.