Monday, December 13, 2010

Male counseling psychologists in academia: an exploratory study of their experience in navigating career and family demands

Dang, this sounds like me - while I plan to use my degree to be a counselor, I also want to teach and do research (in fact, I want to do research now, and have some ideas in the works). All that seems like a tough balance with my relationship with Jami and sleeping occasionally.

It's interesting to see how men in a profession that should be best equipped to deal with the demands of work and family actually do deal with it.

Note: this article is posted for free at Find Articles, which means it is spread over MANY pages with lots of adds - sorry, but it's the only source.

Full Citation:
Duan, C., Brown, C. & Keller, C. (2010, Fall). Male counseling psychologists in academia: an exploratory study of their experience in navigating career and family demands. The Journal of Men's Studies, 13 Dec, 2010.

Male counseling psychologists in academia: an exploratory study of their experience in navigating career and family demands

Journal of Men's Studies, The, Fall, 2010 by Changming Duan, Chris Brown, Chad Keller

An academic career is often perceived as associated with high level of regard and respect and has been described as "entering the ivory tower" (Gore, Murdock, & Haley, 1998). However, despite the esteem often associated with such a career, succeeding in academia is often seen as demanding, challenging, difficult, and lonely (Hill, 2004; Jacobs & Winslow, 2004). Specifically, one prevailing ethos of the academic culture has been that "the career is to be prioritized above all else" (O'Reilly, 2005, p. xv), and "the competitive nature of the academy ... relies on total preoccupation" (Christensen, 2005). Therefore, there exists a common perception that an academic career is mainly designed or suitable for men, as opposed to women (Hill, Leinbaugh, & Hazler, 2005). This perception on one hand seems to be reflective of the belief that men can stay away from family responsibilities more than women, and on the other hand expects men to give career priority over family responsibilities.

Historically, the American society, including the academic community, seemed to have permitted the societal expectations that men were not, and perhaps should not, be too concerned with or interested in providing for the social and emotional well-being of their families due to their primary roles as financial providers (Bernard, 1981; Haddock, Zimmerman, Ziemba, & Lyness, 2006). Consequently, the literature examining the intersection of a professional career with family and life obligations has primarily paid attention to the experiences of professional women (Sheridan, 2004), while ignoring the experiences of men. For a long time, discussion about male academicians' experiences in managing the demand from both work and family was rarely entertained and probably perceived as unimportant or irrelevant in the psychological research community as well as in the general public.

Indeed, the experiences and challenges of women academicians are an important area of study as women do face unique and distinct obstacles in order to establish a successful career in the male dominated academic profession (Brown & Duan, 2007; O'laughlin & Bischoff, 2005). However, being neglectful to men's experiences is presumptuous and may inadvertently perpetuate the erroneous assumption that men do not experience challenges in succeeding in academia and that men are inherently career focused and not interested in being involved in their family lives. The lack of understanding of men's experiences may not only contribute to a minimization of their efforts in achieving a more balanced life but may also result in psychologists and employers not developing appropriate support services and interventions that would aid men in meeting both personal and professional demands. Moreover, this lack of understanding may also prevent healthy cultural changes in academia that are necessary and desirable for supporting both men and women in academia. Therefore, we considered it important to study how men experience academia as a career and how they perceive and deal with career and life challenges as academicians.

Research focusing on the professional experiences of men has primarily focused on how work dominates their lives (Haddock et al., 2006; Winslow, 2005). Through the socialization process it has been suggested that men are taught that work is a primary social role and is of greater importance than other roles, including that of partner and father (Brown, 1999). As described by Gaylin (1992), "... nothing is more important to a man's pride, self-respect, status and manhood than work" (p. 135). Previous research supports these assertions as empirical investigations have highlighted the intersecting relationship of career success and men's definition of masculinity and manhood (Russo, Kelly, & Deacon, 1991), as well as the influence of career success on men's self-esteem and well-being (Jahoda, 1982). These findings may be due to societal expectations, specifically those that emphasize men as "providers" to their families and that success or failure in fulfilling this role is of critical importance to their self-definition (Larson, Richards, & Perry-Jenkins, 1994).

More recently, researchers have demonstrated that the centrality of work to the identities of men may lead to a role imbalance, and more and more men show interest in seeking a balance between their work and personal lives (Brown, 1999). This quest for balance and involvement is reflected in these men desiring more egalitarian relationships with their partners and in being a "nurturant" or "responsible" father to their children (Palkovitz, 2002, p. 33). These fathers are viewed as not only being present at work but also being present and involved in home life. It is important to recognize that nurturant and responsible fathers are more prevalent among well-educated and financially stable households (Palkovitz, Christiansen, & Dunn, 1998), which, compared to less affluent and stable household, may have the "luxury" of fathers being more present at home.

With the increase in awareness that men, like women, do negotiate work and family life roles and that maintaining a balance between personal and professional demands is important for one's well-being, there is growing support in our society to offer men permission and opportunities to participate in both work and family roles. For example, this support is reflected by work organizations allowing men to take paternity leave when children are born. The outcome of this greater permission for men to participate more fully in family life is reflected by 2003 and 2006 U.S. Census data which show an increase in the number of men who have chosen to be stay-at-home fathers (Bergman, 2006; Bernstein, 2004). More broadly speaking, this awareness represents movement towards a greater expectation and acceptance that men have multiple identities (i.e., worker, husband, father, son, etc.) and that these identities should be recognized and nurtured (Haddock et al., 2006; Winslow, 2005).

Changes in cultural and social expectations regarding the role and identities of men will no doubt eventually affect men's career and life values and experiences. However, considering society's long standing tradition in evaluating men primarily in terms of their career success (Bernard, 1981; Sheridan, 2004), it may take time for men to feel comfortable in recognizing, acknowledging, and expressing their identities and roles other than as providers, workers, and professionals. With the increasing social expectation that men perform family roles as well as career roles (Haddock et al., 2006; Sheridan, 2004; Winslow, 2005), men may find themselves facing challenges in negotiating between the traditional values and present demands of their multiple roles. Such challenges and negotiations may be particularly keen among males in demanding professions such as academia.

In this study, we were interested in learning about male academicians' personal values concerning work and family commitment, as well as their experiences in fulfilling multiple roles and navigating various expectations. We conducted a national survey of male faculty members in counseling psychology. Our decision to study men with academic careers in counseling psychology was based on the following reasons. As we were aware that the academic culture regarding family and work may vary across disciplines probably depending on the size of women's presence and the nature of the study (e.g., natural sciences vs. social sciences), we wanted to sample participants from one academic field. Counseling psychology is a discipline that has relatively more female members than many other fields and emphasizes the teaching of human adjustment and transition, as well as on issues of career development. In terms of promoting a career-family role balance, the field of counseling psychology may be considered a leader. Based on their professional training, these men should have knowledge about the psychological challenges and benefits of such a role balance. We were curious about whether or not professional training and knowledge would completely exempt them from the influence of the "ivory tower culture" and possible difficulties in being "nontraditional" in meeting work and family needs. We specifically wanted to learn about the demographic characteristics of men who were trained as counseling psychologists and had maintained an academic position; the perceptions they held about their work and family/life experiences; the importance they placed on their work and family roles; the challenges they experienced and coping strategies adopted, and their likes and dislikes of an academic career.

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Luke said...

This is great stuff. Thanks Bill.


psychologist mosman said...

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