The hope is that through this research, more detailed information may be gathered regarding what to look for in, and how to best help, SAHDs who are experiencing depression.
Depression is a disorder of mood, so mysteriously painful and elusive in the way it becomes known to the self — to the mediating intellect– as to verge close to being beyond description. It thus remains nearly incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it in its extreme mode.
-William Styron, “Darkness Visible”
In the case of another boy, when the time had arrived during which it was the custom for the free boys to steal whatever they could, and it was a disgrace not to escape being found out, when the boys with him had stolen a young fox alive, and given it to him to keep, and those who had lost the fox came in search for it, the boy happened to have slipped the fox under his garment. The beast, however, became savage and ate through his side to the vitals; but the boy did not move or cry out, so as to avoid being exposed, and left, when they had departed, the boys saw what had happened, and blamed him, saying that it would have been better to let the fox be seen than to hide it even unto death; but the boy said, “Not so, but better to die without yielding to the pain than through being detected because of weakness of spirit to gain a life to be lived in disgrace.”
-Plutarch, from “Moralia”
Twenty centuries after Plutarch wrote the above words, regarding the Spartan ethic of toughness, and echoes of the sentiment continue to resonate. What is it that leads boys, and in turn men, to bury the fox, to stand in resolute suffering as their “vitals” are consumed?
I have been tossing this thought around in my head and heart for some time. Stereotypes of quiet fortitude, stoicism, coverage with alcohol/pills/bravado; none quite fitting the experience I see/feel in peers raised less Marlboro and more myspace. Sensing the unknown drift, loss of role-plays that we never even expected to follow.
So here I find myself, now pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology. For my dissertation, I am looking at how Stay-at-home Fathers experience, contend with, and seek help for psychotherapy. A recent post on GMP noted that this may be an undercounted population, and research has suggested that the true numbers of primary-caregiving fathers may actually range between 200,000-1.4 million. While we are beginning to have a sense of how masculinity intersects with the experience of depression, almost nothing is known about how men in the role of SAHFs contend with this “painful and elusive” condition.
I’m hopeful that through undertaking this project, more detailed information may be gathered for fathers, therapists, primary care physicians, and pediatricians regarding what to look for in, and how to best help, SAHFs who are experiencing depression. It is also hoped that by clarifying and illuminating such experiences, other SAHFs may feel less stigma in speaking about and seeking help for their own struggles with depression.
Research outline below. If interested, please contact author at [email protected].
Request for Participants:
Stay-at-home fathers are a rapidly expanding and under-studied group, and I am hoping that you will be able to give about an hour of your time to share some of your experiences in this area. A team of researchers at Marquette University is seeking volunteers to participate in a study of stay-at-home fathers’ experiences of depression and help-seeking. The study has been reviewed and approved by the Marquette University Institutional Review Board.
To participate in this study, you must self-identify as a stay-at-home father (SAHF) for children still living in the home, with a partner/spouse who is the primary breadwinner (e.g. your spouse must work outside the home 32 hours or more per week, and you must not work in a paid capacity more than 10 hours per week). In addition, you must have experienced a depressed mood, continuously, for at least two weeks, during your time as a SAHF. Participation in this study involves completing one audio recorded telephone interview, lasting approximately 1 hour.
The focus of the interview will be on your experiences with depression, your experiences seeking help for depression, and (if you sought therapy for the depression) your thoughts regarding helpful and harmful practices for stay-at-home fathers in therapy. It will also ask you to reflect on ways you think your own sense of masculinity has changed since becoming a stay-at-home father, and ways in which your own masculinity influenced your help-seeking decisions. To ensure confidentiality, recordings, as well as the resulting transcripts and data, will be assigned a code number, and all identifiers will be deleted. After completion of the project, recordings will be erased.
We recognize that there is a slight chance that talking about your experiences may be uncomfortable, and we are grateful for your willingness to do so. Of course, you are under no obligation to participate in this project, and you may withdraw your consent at any time without penalty. Let us assure you, as well, that our purpose is in no way to evaluate you, your parenting practices, or your therapy; instead, our goal is to understand more about the unique experiences stay-at-home fathers have contending with depression.
If you would like to participate, please email William Caperton, MA. He will then send you the Consent and Demographic forms for you to complete and return (please only return the Demographic forms) as soon as possible. He will also send you the interview protocol so that you can make fully informed consent. Upon receipt of the Demographic forms, he will contact you to arrange for the interview. We encourage you to look over the protocol questions prior to your interview so that you have a chance to think about your responses. If you do not meet the criteria for participation, we would be grateful if you would share information about this study with others who might be interested in participating.