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One year caring: A longitudinal, narrative study on men’s perspectives of caring for a female partner with cancer

Young, Jenny

Authors

Jenny Young



Abstract

Background
In Scotland and countries such as the US and Canada, 4 in 10 family carers are men. Yet in the main, increasing evidence on the extent of men’s involvement in care has not transferred to the research literature around men’s experiences. In particular, there is a significant lack of qualitative research that explores men’s perspectives of masculinity and the social structures and discourses that shape it.

Aim
To explore the perspectives of men who are caring for a partner with a cancer diagnosis in Scotland.

Method
Eight men participated in narrative interviews. Seven were interviewed three times over the course of one year and one further participant was interviewed once. Participants were aged from 32-76 years old, were all White British and in heterosexual relationships. The study included a range of cancer types. Interviews were transcribed and analysed after each interview and also longitudinally, using a structural and performance approach to narrative analysis. The overarching theoretical framework was social constructionism.

Findings
Data analysis was written into eight individual stories and four scenes. Those scenes are: ‘In that moment life changes’; ‘Caring but not a carer’; ‘Opening the valve’ and ‘Repercussions’. The men drew on different discourses of masculinity in order to frame caring in masculine terms. At times this evoked feelings of fragmentation and conflict, particularly over the manipulation of emotions. By concealing feelings such as worry, fear and loneliness to their partner, they were fulfilling expected norms that position men as being stoical and invulnerable. Yet, this was often done as an act of love and protection rather than due to a discursive need to be the ‘strong’ one.

Conclusion
To my knowledge, this is the first longitudinal, narrative study to explore the experience s of caring for a partner with cancer from the perspective of men. I have identified a new depth of understanding as to why men in caring roles may report feelings of strain. Acknowledging the limitations of the study design, in terms of transferability and representation of the study findings, different relationships (for example, same-sex or other family member) will have particular dynamics and consequences for how the role is experienced. Nevertheless, the findings from this study have interrelated implications for research, policy and practice. I recommend that this work is used to spark further action on carer identification and engagement with men who are less likely to identify with the role; yet would benefit from a range of different supportive interventions.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Mar 8, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2022
DOI https://doi.org/10.17869/enu.2022.2851962
Public URL http://researchrepository.napier.ac.uk/Output/2851962
Award Date Jul 31, 2021

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