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MHIRC: Men's Emotional Experiences of Caring: How Men Do Emotion and Implications For Emotional Support

This study by PhD candidate Lynne Dowd of MHIRC explores men’s emotional experiences of caring and explain why current models of emotional support do not appeal to many men. It is also challenging the caregiving services to think about how they can cater to a growing number of male carers.

Men's Emotional Experiences of Caring: How Men Do Emotion and Implications For Emotional Support

 

Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 10 men, primary carers for their wives, all of whom have a dementia diagnosis. The overall aim of the study is to explore men’s emotional experiences of caring and explain why current models of emotional support do not appeal to many men.

Caring is known to be detrimental the health of the carer with higher reports of burden, anxiety and depression amongst carers compared to the general population (ABS, 2008, AIHW, 2007.2012). Emotional support is known to mitigate some of these health risks for carers but men by and large do not use these services (Alzheimer’s Australia, 2005; Carers NSW, 2005).

Emerging findings from this study suggest that emotional communication in men is contingent upon both socio cultural structures such as class and gender but more significantly upon the contexts which men move and in through during their lives. These factors combine to either enable and or constrain men’s ability to verbally communicate emotion. This is significant since current models of emotional support require verbal emotional disclosure.

Findings point to the education, socio-economic backgrounds and gendered work and social environments of the men, which determine the extent to which they are likely to have developed the language of emotion required to benefit from current models of emotional support. For some men for example emotion is expressed in action and doing and this was evident in both the men’s accounts of how they provide affective care to their wives and their constructions of support and care from other men. Consequently, support requiring emotional disclosure is neither attractive nor desirable to these men.

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