Card image cap
Card image cap

No 26 - 2017

Families, Men and Masculinities
Directed by Sacha Genest Dufault, Christine Castelain Meunier

Masculinities and families in transformation
Sacha Genest Dufault, Christine Castelain Meunier

Research Framework: The family is an important setting for gendered socialization including the way individuals are built and gendered in a normative social and cultural setting. The family contributes to the reproduction of masculinities, though it can also constitute a space for emancipation and subversion of gender norms.

Objectives : This article is an introduction to the Enfances Familles Générations Journal issue on masculinity and families. It aims to present the state of research and paths of reflection on the articulation of masculinity and the family.

Methodology : This introductory article is based on research into masculinity and the practices of men. The analysis is then put into context using the field of study on families and its current transformations.

Results : Studies on families and men are politicized fields of research which are intimately connected. Despite recognition that transformations are currently taking place, there remains a desire for further knowledge on whether the subject of masculinity within the family is being reinvented, or whether it is still participating in the reproduction of gendered social orders. This is a complex issue which will be further explored in this text.

Conclusions : Several masculinity related themes are explored in the research. The contributions made by this issue will help fill in these shortcomings. The topics we address here discuss the new realities of men in the family, including househusbsands, fathers of premature children and the evolution of social discourse on maleness.

Contribution: This article reviews issues surrounding the transformation of masculinity and family plurality and identifies new paths of research to be further fleshed out regarding these issues.

Keywords: family, gender, men, sexual identity, paternity, subjectivity, masculinity

New masculinity in Switzerland: an ideological approach to gender and the distribution of paid and unpaid work in couples
Hakim Ben Salah, Boris Wernli, Caroline Henchoz

Research Framework: In postmodern Western society, men have adopted behaviour that is traditionally labelled as being feminine, particularly when it comes to the distribution of child rearing roles. In Switzerland, the tangible investment of men is generally characterized, in comparison to women, by a lesser involvement in domestic and familial tasks, which is reduced further following the birth of a child.

Objectives: Using this statement as our starting point, this article explores the relationship between gender ideology and the investment of men and fathers in this area.

Methodology: Using multi-variate statistics models, our analysis attempts to determine whether attitudes to family life and equality have an influence on the domestic and familial involvement of men. We conducted over 25,000 telephone interviews between 2000 and 2011 as a part of the Swiss Household Panel (SHP).

Results: Our results showed four types of masculinity. The “Professional Man” essentially builds his masculinity through their professional implication in the employment and financial aspects of the household. The “Orthodox Man” remains the main financial provider though they do not eschew domestic tasks. Regardless, they tend to take care of tasks that are socially defined as being masculine. The “Traditional Manager” has a similar profile though they only take charge of tasks that are negotiable such as the administrative aspects of the home. The “Inclusive Man” shares more time between paid and unpaid work with their partner.

Conclusions: These different profiles are less explained by the practical application of a gender ideology than by institutional and pragmatic factors such as economic and human capital and the disposition of partners.

Contributions: By offering a typology for involvement in unpaid work for Swiss men and by empirically examining several explanations for the stated differences, this article provides an original contribution to the understanding of masculinity in a familial context.

Keywords: gender, masculinity, distribution of work between men and women, equality

Men’s bodies under women’s eyes The sociology of appearance through the prism of conjugality
Marion Braizaz

Research Framework: In the twentieth century, there was a major inflexion regarding social representations of the body. Currently, the way individuals stage their own bodies is seen in our society as something that has to be unique, reflecting one’s identity construction. While men have kept away from the world of appearance for a long time, they are now – like women – marked in their everyday life by the aesthetic imperative. Within conjugal intimacy, this new order has a particular resonance.
Objectives: The subject of our article is to demonstrate how the work of appearance represents a decisive conjugal issue, where the aesthetic choices of each member of a couple are constantly submitted to the other’s eyes.

Methodology: Following a qualitative survey about the aesthetic experience of individuals conducted in France among 32 women and 28 men, we identified a crucial gendered asymmetry in the private sphere.

Results: In the conjugal game of appearances, the social imaginary promoting the well-being of everyone collides with feminine sovereignty. Men’s aesthetic dependency on women appears evident. Faced with this women’s influence, male tactics are radically different from one social group to another. At the top of the social ladder, men of the upper classes manage to restore balance by creating a subtle reciprocity. On the opposite end of the spectrum, men of more modest social classes are bereft of this option and can only offer minimal resistance to this control by women.
Conclusions: Using a cross-referenced analysis of the sociology of couples and a sociology of aesthetic practices, this article highlights how conjugality happens to be the place of undeniably imbalanced power, doubly marked, both by gender and social status.

Contribution: Moreover, this article emphasizes how conjugality constitutes a key modality of men’s aesthetic experience, which is far from being the case for women.

Mots-clés: couple, masculinity, body, gender, social class, intimacy

Muscled out of the family - The case of bodybuilders
Guillaume Vallet

Research Framework: Bodybuilding is an extreme sport in the sense that is founded on the idea of a permanent transformation of the body. In certain cases, the sport becomes an individual’s entire identity, heavily impacting upon the family life of dedicated practitioners. Their commitment to the sport can force them to reconcile the management of various family resources with the means they require to reach their goals.

Objectives: This article aims to determine whether dedication to bodybuilding influences family commitments and if so, to what degree. This relationship should be seen from the perspective of the family as a social institution and by studying the question of risk taking associated with social practices such as bodybuilding.

Methodology: We investigated this relationship between the “management” of the family and the degree of involvement with bodybuilding by using a study conducted with nearly thirty heterosexual bodybuilders from three gyms. We based our qualitative methodology on 120 direct observations and 30 semi-structured interviews.

Results: We proposed four models (” Self-centred”; “Indifferent”; “Negotiators” and “Controlled”). These four models served as a backdrop for a definition of masculine gender identity as being strongly influenced by the family status and its relationship with the body which is our focus.

Conclusions: These four models show that a hierarchy exists between the level of commitment to family life and engaging in the practise of bodybuilding. When the former is subordinate to the latter, bodybuilding is a “total” sport for the individual practising it, with their identity being uniquely constructed around the logic of bodybuilding. At this stage, the bodybuilder is susceptible to engaging in potentially destructive processes.

Contribution: Our major contribution is found in the relationship between the four models and masculine gender identity in accordance with the degree of involvement in bodybuilding: When bodybuilders pass a certain threshold in terms of commitment, eschewing the sociological concept of a “career”, bodybuilding becomes the principle activity and the family becomes secondary. For these reasons, the family is likely to be ‘muscled out’.

Mots-clés: gender, identity, masculinity, bodybuilding, family

Among the boys: recreational activities and the construction of gender identity through socializing with masculine family members and friends, in the working classes
Clémence Perronnet

Research Framework: Recreational activities and cultural preferences and practices are a way of affirming and situating oneself in the social world, as much by one’s class or age as by one’s gender or place of residence. To say it in other words: “if you play soccer, like video games and listen to rap music… then you are a working class boy”.

Objectives: This articles seeks to question this apparent obviousness, looking at how young working class boys construct their gender through recreational activities, and asking what role is thence played by socializing with masculine family members and friends.

Methodology: We use data collected during a qualitative study led though observation and individual interviews with 20 boys and 11 girls who attend two classes of CM21 (10-11 year olds) in a working class neighborhood in the city of Lyon, France.

Results: The recreation and sociability network inhabited by the young boys is very masculine, an “entre-soi” or socio-cultural homogeneity that is built against the feminine. As for the parents, their gender roles are well differentiated, and the fathers and mothers interact differently with the boys. Horizontal sociability among peers (brothers, friends, cousins) also plays an important part in taste-making and masculine identification. At the individual level, the ostensibly homogeneous “entre-soi” is less uniform than it seems, and the ways of being a boy turn out to be both varied and hierarchized. Social distinction strategies appear within the gendered order.

Conclusions: Hence, this work questions the applicability of the social distinction model, showing that despite the common and shared nature of “the boys’” recreational activities, fine variations of practice set the stage for tiering within the male group.

Contribution: It also invites the reader to consider the heterogeneity of social groups through the combined description of what shapes community and what, from within, creates difference.

Mots-clés: childhood, family, gender, gender identity, social inequalities, intersectionnality, socialization, recreational activities

The stay-at-home father : a new masculine role ?
Myriam Chatot

Research Framework: Despite advocacy in favour of the equal sharing of domestic labour and family responsibilities, women are still overwhelmingly in charge of childcare and housework; for a man to become a “stay-at-home father” is a reversal of traditional roles.
Objectives: This article aims to understand how traditional gender roles shift in couples in which the father stays at home, examining how these fathers and their partners relate to the respective roles of resource provider and family care provider, and more broadly to masculinity and femininity.
Methodology: To this end, we build upon the results of a quantitative survey based on semi-directive interviewing, that was led in France among twenty-five fathers in heterosexual couples with children, who have not worked in at least the last six months.
Results: Results suggest that stay-at-home fathers are in a hybrid position as pertains to gender norms: between transgression, with their adoption of a role that is perceived as feminine, and reaffirmation of their belonging to the masculine gender, through showcasing activities or roles that are characterized as masculine. Likewise, even though their feminine partners are assigned the resource purveyor role in these couples, they do not appear to forsake the caregiver role.
Conclusions: These stay-at-home fathers seem to adjust their role, conciliating the role of caregiver and provider of resources, and privileging the more typical masculine aspects of a provider of care.
Contribution: This exploratory study suggests that measures meant to more fully engage fathers by way of parental leave associated to early childhood may be efficient.

Mots-clés: family, France, gender, gender identity, parental identity, paternity, exploratory research, qualitative research, social representation, reproductive work

Social support and the experience of fathering a preterm infant
Flora Koliouli, Chantal Zaouche Gaudron, Charlotte Casper, Laurence Berdot-Talmier, Jean-Philippe Raynaud

Research Framework: Several studies have shown that the parents’ experience in the advent of preterm birth can be of a traumatic nature and have an impact on the quality of the parent-child relationship (Lindberg, Axelsson and Ohrling, 2008). However, we must take note of the fact that the processes at play among fathers remain mostly unknown.
Objectives : This exploratory study aims to develop a model for understanding the fathers’ experience of preterm infants. This experience is appreciated through the father’s relationship with the infant (Blomqvist et. al., 2012, Helth and Jarden, 2013) and experience of becoming a father (Zaouche Gaudron et. al., 2003 ; Zaouche Gaudron et. al., 2005) but also through the father’s relationship with the medical team (Fegran and Helseth, 2009). The extent of the child’s prematurity is also considered (Ibanez et. al., 2006).
Methodology : The sample includes 48 fathers of preterm infants. We developed and used a semi-directive interview based on the Clinical interview for Parents of High Risk Infants (Meyer et. al., 1993) to collect the data. The focus is on the partner’s pregnancy, labour and delivery, the relationship with the infant and social support.
Results : Our main results indicate that the fathers build an initial bond with their infant through skin-to-skin contact and eye contact. They also reflect the traumatic experience that is connected to preterm birth, with ambivalent feelings such as fear, stress, but also happiness. The main source of social support, besides the family, is the healthcare team, and the other parents in the department.
Conclusions : The main conclusions allow us to make proposals concerning professional practices aimed at supporting the paternalization process in the particular context of preterm birth.
Contribution : Within a qualitative perspective, this study sheds light on the father’s experience in the specific context that is the birth of a preterm infant.

Mots-clés: paternity, prematurity, social support, stress, father-infant bonding, professional practices

Paternal experience and internalized problems in young children in precarious situations: the father’s perspective
Myriam Kettani, Chantal Zaouche Gaudron, Carl Lacharité, Diane Dubeau, Marie-Ève Clément

Research Framework: In a previous article (Kettani and Zaouche-Gaudron, 2012a), we detailed internalized problems as evaluated by fathers are more significant for young children living in precarious situations than for young children in better-off families.
Objectives: The objective here is to examine the role of paternal experience in an explanation of the connection between precariousness and the internalized conduct of young children.
Methodology: The sample included 187 fathers of children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old who filled out questionnaires evaluating the internalized conduct of their children, paternal experience (paternal commitment, paternal stress and feelings of paternal competency) and their socio-economic situation (family income, housing conditions, father’s employment status and perception of financial status)
Results: The results showed that children living in a more precarious setting present more internalized problems than children who live in better off settings. There was no difference in paternal commitment for fathers in precarious settings versus those in better off situations. However, fathers in more precarious contexts had higher levels of stress and a lower feeling of paternal competency which largely explains the internalized problems of the children. The paternal perception of financial constraint played a significant role in explaining the internalized problems of children than did more objective measures of precariousness.
Conclusions: The paternal perception of their socio-economic situation and their life experience, which were evaluated via the feeling of competency and paternal stress, best explained the internalized problems of children living in precarious settings.
Contribution: These results highlight the importance of considering subjective aspects of precariousness as well as effects related to the paternal role to encourage the personal growth of fathers as well as the socio-affective adjustments of families in precarious situations.

Mots-clés: internalized problems, parental commitment, feeling of parental competency, parental stress, paternity, preciousness, paternal evaluation, children

Assessing Family Memory With Young At-Risk Parents: Representation and Narration of a Painful Family Story
Caroline Baret, Sophie Gilbert

Research Framework: « Street youth », or « at-risk youth », become parents under precarious situations: substance abuse and addiction, unstable living conditions (housing instability and low income), and lack of social and family support (Baret and Gilbert, 2015, Haley et al., 2006 Poirier et al., 1999).
Objectives : Our research aims to understand how young at-risk parents develop their family memories given their often painful histories including child abuse, child abandonment and conflictual family relationships).
Methodology : We conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 young parents who were recruited in Montreal through a community organization that helps homeless and at-risk youth (Dans la rue). We analysed the transcripts using a two-level inductive method: descriptive and interpretative (Gilbert, 2009, Paillé and Mucchielli, 2008, 2012).
Results : This qualitative analysis guided us toward a typology of « memory representation of the family ». Each representation (enigmatic, defective and smokescreen) corresponds to three distinct psycological mechanisms: memorial scotomization, fixation and fabulation.
Conclusions : Rather than considering family memory as an awareness and negotiation of the past (Muxel, 1996), our participant narrations refer to a difficult consciousness of their past. Different processes are involved: 1) erasing (scotomization) ; 2) reminiscence (fixation) ; 3) idealization (fabulation).
Contribution : Without underestimating current distress and material difficulties of these young parents, our research reveals the relevance of assessing family and social history within psychosocial services. The ideal objective is to provide support for reflective memory work (Muxel, 1996) and mentalization (Tychey, 2001; Berthelot et al., 2013) through therapeutic relationships that are marked by trust.

Keywords: parenthood, psychology, life stories, family memory, qualitative research, mentalization, at-risk youth, grief, child protection, affiliation, family violence

The connection between negative parenting practices and externalized behaviour problems among children entering kindergarten: the mitigating effect of the other parent’s positive practices.
Camille Caron, Thérèse Besnard, Pierrette Verlaan, France Capuano

Research Framework: Studying the impact of both parents’ parenting practices suggests that, just as the mother’s, the father’s parenting practices make a positive contribution to the child’s social adjustment. However, parenting practices can also be linked to adjustment difficulties, in particular externalized behaviour problems. At a time where both parents are invested in their children’s education, it is useful to consider the mutual influence of both parents’ parenting practices, as regards the child’s externalized behaviour problems, so as to determine the possible mitigating factors of co-parenting within a family.

Objectives: This research aims to ascertain: 1) whether the father’s positive parenting practices mitigate the connection between the mother’s negative parenting practices and the child’s externalized behaviour problems and 2) whether the mother’s positive parenting practices mitigate the connection between the father’s negative parenting practices and the child’s externalized behaviour problems.

Methodology: The cross-sectional study is based on a subsample of 626 children (of an age averaging 5.6 years) and their two parents. Data was collected through surveys administered separately to the mothers and the fathers.

Results: The results of multiple regression analyses show the simple effect of negative parenting practices on the child’s externalized behaviour problems. A mitigating effect of the mother’s positive practices regarding the father’s negative parenting practices is noticeable, however the opposite is not.

Conclusions: The study shows the importance of focusing on negative parenting practices, as regards the mothers as well as the fathers. Furthermore, it appears that the combined effect of both parents’ practices could have as high an impact as individual parenting practices on the child’s development.

Contribution: This study offers new insights on parental co-engagement and the child’s development, focusing on the mitigating effect of positive parenting practices.

Mots-clés: parenting practices, mother, father, mitigation, kindergarten, behaviour problems

The orphan in Africa: a varied social category
Georges Danhoundo

Research Framework: Different agencies devoted to childcare, both at the national and the international level, are mobilized around orphan children. In the African countries in which the AIDS pandemic is widespread, caring for “AIDS orphans” is of special concern to government and non-governmental organizations, as well as families, bearing witness to the solidarity around a mission that seems to gathers widespread approval.

Objectives: This article analyses the different ways in which the “orphan” category is used, and their effects in terms of understanding public, social and international issues.

Methodology: It is based on data collected in the context of sociological, demographical and anthropological research on the actor strategies of those involved in caring for orphans in Africa.

Results: From the standpoint of these humanitarian and development NGOs, caring for orphan children entails profiling, something the “AIDS orphan and vulnerable children” category illustrates. Use of the “orphan” category, in particular, has become pervasive and has spread to the field of education and risk management. However, this word covers different realities, and remains loose. Combining sentimentalism and compassion, it calls forth a category that is structured by the innocence, the challenges, the frailness, the insecurity and the vulnerability of children; it is one of the main portrayals of contemporary childhood.

Conclusions: The “orphan children” category covers diverse realities. Orphan transfer in the paternal line as the unique solution being suggested by some NGOs, making reference to the ancestral practices of patrilineal African societies (in which the child is supposed to “belong” to the father’s lineage) should be called into question. Likewise, we should no longer consider the extended family as the only solution for caring for orphan children.

Contribution: This article emphasizes the fact that we must widen our understanding of the extended family when referring to the transfer of orphans, and better define belonging to the extended family. Beyond kinship rules, the ways in which orphans are transferred or the economical and social context play an important role.

Mots-clés: Africa, construction, child, orphan, sociology

Particularities of parental influence in the perception of the value of post-secondary level studies in youths: a longitudinal qualitative analysis
Marie-France Noël, Sylvain Bourdon, Anne Brault-Labbé

Research Framework: This research is devoted to looking at the motivational dynamics of post-secondary level Quebec youths based on the perception of the value of studies, taking courses, programs and studying in general. The perceived value of studies is a judgement that is based on four characteristics (Eccles, 2005; Noël, 2014): interest, usefulness, the value of doing and various costs.
Objectives: This article examines the influence of parents on the perception of the value of studies by contrasting parental influence with those of peers and educators.
Methodology: An interpretive qualitative analysis was conducted based on 186 semi-structured interviews over a period of five years with 36 post-secondary level youths. These interviews were conducted as a part of the enquête Famille, réseaux et persévérance au collégial (Bourdon and Charbonneau) and a secondary analysis conducted as part of doctoral research.
Results: The results showed that parents are likely to influence four aspects of value, particularly in regards to the usefulness of studies and integration into the labour market. Parental influence acts through several mechanisms including 1) discussion and advice; 2) modeling effects via their own paths and 3) support, especially financial.
Conclusions: The influence of parents includes particularities relative to those of peers and educators. Research has also shown that the conceptual perception of the value of studies constitutes an interesting perspective through which we can see the nuances of various influences.
Contribution: This research is an original approach to the concept of the perception of the values of studies, in particular, by taking a qualitative approach, but also by taking into consideration a broad range of potential sources of influence in youths and how they value studies.

Mots-clés: motivation, parent, peers, educators, perception of value, college, university