Silvia Fornasini, Francesco Miele, Enrico Maria Piras

Masculinities and chronic illness. The case of fathers with diabetic children

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Child Care; Masculinities; Fatherhood; Type 1 Diabetes; Male Breadwinner Model.

Juvenile or Type 1 Diabetes (TD1) is an auto-immune disease that requires a significant effort in self-management. The onset of the disease in a child places this burden on parents, requiring a careful monitoring of fluctuations in blood glucose levels through diet, exercise and insulin injections. Drawing on the theoretical underpinnings of the men's studies which suggests the existence of tensions between paternity and masculinity, this article proposes an empirically-based reflection on the challenges to the traditional male breadwinner model posed by the need to care for children with chronic illness. Starting from a qualitative investigation based on in depth interviews and observations involving families with a child affected by T1D, our research sheds light on how parents reproduce and challenge gender binary, strengthening or weakening the traditional gap between masculinity and care and show the emerging of new forms of masculinity. Through the adoption of a metaphor derived from the movie production we identify four forms of masculinity: the background actor, the character actor, the stuntman and the coprotagonist. The analysis reveals that the male breadwinner model seems to maintain its hegemony in the self-representation of fathers and mothers where cultural stereotypes remain unchallenged. However, the analysis of the daily practices of care reveal discloses a more nuanced picture in which most of fathers take part and share with their female partners, albeit in different ways, the burden of care.

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