Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Dilemmas of agency and blame in men’s talk about depression

Qualitative research has found that men may reconstruct masculinity to navigate perceived tensions between depression and masculine norms. However, research has not fully attended to the gendered tensions and conflicts men may encounter in navigating multiple explanatory models of depression. To address this gap, we conducted 11 semi-structured interviews with men living in the United States who had been diagnosed with depression within the past month (n = 7) or the past 3 years (n = 4). Using a thematic analysis with elements of discourse analysis, we identified two interpretive repertoires used to make sense out of depression. These repertoires, which we labeled (a) the biomedical model and (b) the responsible agent model, were analyzed for their thematic contents and rhetorical functions. The majority (n = 8) of participants drew upon both repertoires, although participants differed in how they navigated between them. Some participants’ uptake of the two repertoires appeared more dualistic and rigid while other participants’ intra-individual variation appeared more dialectical and flexible. These findings reveal greater uptake of biomedical discourse in men’s accounts of depression than has been previously documented in the qualitative literature, suggest the need for further research on how masculinity relates to flexible or rigid explanatory styles, and affirm the importance of attending to complexity in men’s accounts of depression.

Hoffman, E., & Addis, M. E. (2021). Dilemmas of agency and blame in men’s talk about depression. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication.

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