Masculinities fathering and health: The experiences of African-Caribbean and white working class fathers

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Abstract

There is a developing body of research that investigates the links between masculinities and men's health experiences, but the links between masculinities and the health of fathers has been a neglected focus for research in the UK. This paper presents some of the findings drawn from a parent study which investigated African-Caribbean and white working class fathers' experiences of fathering, health and social connectedness. Data are drawn from interviews with 13 men (6 African-Caribbean and 7 White working class) living in a city in the West Midlands area of the UK. In this paper, I analyse and discuss African-Caribbean and white working class fathers' stories about the meaning of health, the influences upon their health, and their health practices. It was found that for the African-Caribbean fathers specifically, anticipated or perceived racist prejudice, abuse or discrimination influenced their health experiences. However, the meaning of health for both ethnic groups of fathers was as functional capacity, that is health was an asset that allowed fathers to meet the obligations of paid work and fathering. These obligations were also associated with a restricted sense of personal agency for the men interviewed, and the associated constraints were linked to transgressive consumption of alcohol, food and tobacco. In addition, fathers were also involved in solitary ways of dealing with their vulnerability, vulnerability that was associated with fathers' health concerns, and other difficult life experiences. Fathers' solitary experiences of vulnerability were also mediated by hegemonic forms of masculinity. Nevertheless, the experience of fathering within the lifecourse influenced men's health experiences: reflexivity and challenges to both transgressive consumption and solitary experiences were linked to fathers' perceived obligations to children. The significance of gender, ethnicity and social class for theory and future research with working class fathers and boys is identified, and the need for gender-sensitive public health and health promotion interventions regarding the 'work-family balance' and working class fathers' personal and social skills is also discussed.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-349
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Volume64
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007