Young adult men's constructions of help-seeking and masculinity: a discourse analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Grant, Suzanne Helen 2011. Young adult men's constructions of help-seeking and masculinity: a discourse analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsGrant, Suzanne Helen
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Despite the prevalence of mental health problems in the United Kingdom, there is a
disparity between the number of individuals suffering with such difficulties and those
that seek professional psychological help. Specifically, young adult men account for the
least frequent users of psychological services. A wide body of literature has found that
men's reluctance to seek help is associated with traditional masculine ideologies. The
present research aimed to investigate this further by asking how a sample of young adult
men from London and the surrounding boroughs constructed psychological helpseeking
and masculinity, and the implications these had for their subject positioning and
help-seeking practices.
The research adopted a qualitative methodology, incorporating a social constructionist
paradigm. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten men aged 18-25 years
old. The participants were predominantly white British, and had no mental health
problems or previous experience of psychological service use. An integrative form of
discourse analysis was carried out, which drew on discursive and Foucauldian features
to explore the different interpretative repertoires, ideologies and subject positions that
were available for the participants to work up in their talk.
It was found that the men in the sample drew on a number of interpretative repertoires
in order to construct help-seeking, and also constructed particular masculine identities
within which to position themselves and others. Specifically, psychological helpseeking
presented some ideological dilemmas to the men in the sample, where they
risked being positioned as abnormal within society or weak, feminine men. The
participants discursively managed this by drawing on several discursive strategies and
discourses of 'macho' men who are brave to seek help, and 'new' men who are
comfortable with expressing their emotions. It was concluded that this enabled
psychological help-seeking to become a legitimate practice. However, it was also
discussed how the dominance of traditional hegemonic masculinity constrained the way
in which these men were able to construct psychological help-seeking. The findings of
the present study contribute to therapists' awareness of masculinity-related issues with
their male clients, and also inform the way psychological services could be marketed to
men. The findings also provide support to the literature that has criticised and extended
Connel's (1995) theory of hegemonic masculinity.

Publication dates
PrintJun 2011
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Jun 2014
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