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Solitary practices or social connections? : a comparative study of fathering and health experiences among white and African-Caribbean working class men

By Ph.D. Robert Williams


This study addresses the following research question: what are the implications of African-\ud Caribbean and White working class men's experiences within social connections (within\ud families, friendships, communities and workplaces), for fathering and health experiences?\ud The purposes of this study were to undertake a primary piece of intensive qualitative\ud research, and also to analyse, critically, the study's findings, in order to identify implications\ud for theory, policy, practice and research.\ud This investigation was critical, interpretative and exploratory, informed by the principles of\ud phenomenology and ethnography. Six African-Caribbean and seven White working class\ud men were recruited, using purposive sampling, for two semi-structured individual\ud interviews. This enabled the exploration of the interactive effects and processes of structure\ud and agency, in relation to social class, gender, and ethnicity.\ud The study did not find major differences between the experiences of these two groups of\ud men, although the assets and constraints related to African-Caribbean men's experiences of\ud ethnicity and racism within social connections were evident. Study findings, for both groups\ud of men, indicated that social connectedness within families, communities and workplaces\ud was highly valued, but social connections, material and structural factors also influenced the\ud health of the men interviewed. Furthermore, findings indicated that men's experiences of\ud social connectedness have limitations. Specifically, men's limited insights into the links\ud between social connectedness and health, men's perceived limitations with their\ud communication skills, their solitary methods of dealing with perceived vulnerability, but\ud also the uncertainty associated with their identities as men were significant findings. Indeed,\ud men's experiences of both solitary discourses and practices and social connectedness,\ud regarding fathering and health, were associated with discourses about masculinities.\ud Implications for existing theory, for example Connell's (1995) work regarding masculinities,\ud and Putnam's (1995) work regarding `social capital', are identified. In addition,\ud implications for research, policy and practice are examined, with specific reference to the\ud opportunities for mental health promotion with working class men who are fathers

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