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Adolescent boys with asthma – a pilot study on embodied gendered habits

Authors Westergren T, Lilleaas U

Received 30 August 2012

Accepted for publication 27 September 2012

Published 5 November 2012 Volume 2012:5 Pages 289—297


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Thomas Westergren,1 Ulla-Britt Lilleaas2

1Faculty of Health and Sport Science, Department of Health and Nursing Science, University of Agder, Grimstad, Norway; 2Faculty of Humanities and Education, Centre for Gender and Equality, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

Purpose: Asthma is a common chronic disease with gender differences in terms of severity and quality of life. This study aimed to understand the gendered practices of male asthmatic adolescents in terms of living with and managing their chronic disease. The study applied a sociological perspective to identify the gender-related practices of participants and their possible consequences for health and disease.
Patients and methods: The study used a combined ethnomethodology and grounded theory design, which was interpreted using Bourdieu's theory of practice. We aimed to discover how participants interpreted their social worlds to create a sense of meaning in their everyday lives. The study was based on multistage focus group interviews with five adolescent participants at a specialist center for asthmatic children and youths. We took necessary precautions to protect the participants, according to the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. The study protocol was approved by the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics and the hospital's research department.
Results: The core concept for asthmatic male adolescents was being men. They were focused on being nonasthmatic, and exhibited ambivalence towards the principles of the health services. Physical activity supported their aim of being men and being nonasthmatic, as well as supported their treatment goals. Being fearless, unconcerned, “cool,” and dependent also supported the aim of being men and being nonasthmatic, but not the health service principle of regular medication. Occasionally, the participants were asthmatic when they were not able to or gained no advantages from being nonasthmatic. Their practice of being men independently of being asthmatic emphasized their deeply gendered habits.
Conclusion: Understanding gender differences in living with and managing asthma is important for health workers. Knowledge of embodied gendered habits and their reproduction in social interactions and clinical work should be exploited as a resource during the supervision of asthmatic adolescent boys.

Keywords: ethnomethodology, focus group, grounded theory, men's health, qualitative approach, doing gender

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