Culture of Masculinity and Qualitative Research
In the lead up to the Trainee Research Conference on the 23rd September 2014 (see details below), the third year trainees have reflected upon psychological cultures in relation to their doctoral theses.
My research aimed to look at young people’s experiences of reintegrating into school following treatment for a brain tumour using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach. Interestingly, both girls and boys were invited to participate in the study, yet only girls volunteered. The reason for this gender imbalance was unclear, however similar gender biases have been noted in reviews of general nursing research (Polit & Beck, 2008) and parental perspectives in paediatric palliative care (Macdonald et al., 2010).
Another established finding in the literature is that men access support from counselling services to a lesser extent than women (Addis & Mahalik, 2003). It has been suggested that a potential reason for this gender imbalance is incongruence between the culture of masculinity and the requirements of psychotherapy, such as a willingness to self-disclose and develop an emotionally intimate relationship (Betz & Fitzgerald, 1993).
There may be some overlap between the requirements of qualitative interviews and psychotherapy and I wondered if masculine cultural roles may not fit with the intimate nature of qualitative research interviews and the requirements of self-disclosure and emotional expression. These facets of qualitative research could act as a barrier to the inclusion of male voices and developing more appropriate methodologies may be a useful avenue for future research. Reflecting on cultural issues around gender in relation to my own research but also in relation to clinical practice, also made me wonder about the accessibility of psychological support for males and whether we need to be more creative in developing techniques that overcome some of these barriers. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts…
Trainee Clinical Psychologist
Addis, M. E. & Mahalik, J. R. (2003). Men, Masculinity, and the Contexts of Help Seeking. American Psychologist, 58(1), 5-14.
Betz, N. E. & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1993). Individuality and Diversity: Theory and Research in Counselling Psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 44(1), 343-381.
Macdonald, M. E., Chilibeck, G., Affleck, W. & Cadell, S. (2010). Gender imbalance in pediatric palliative care research samples. Palliative Medicine, 24(4), 435-444.
Polit, D. F. & Beck, C. T. (2008). Is There Gender Bias in Nursing Research? Research in Nursing & Health, 31(5), 417-427.