Gender Role Reversal: Civilian Husbands of United States Military Servicewomen Defining Masculinity as Tied-Migrant Workers
Dowling, Laura Emily
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Employment of male spouses of female service members in the United States military (i.e., civilian husbands of servicewomen) is frequently affected when they geographically relocate due to their wives' military service. Because of persisting societal norms for husbands as primary breadwinners in marriages and the majority of military couples being comprised of male service members married to female civilian spouses, civilian husbands of servicewomen may experience a gender role reversal in their identity as a spouse and as a provider within their relationships and military culture. This qualitative study examined the experiences of civilian husbands of servicewomen in their positions as tied-migrant workers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 civilian husbands who experienced at least one geographic relocation due to their wife's military service. Descriptive phenomenological analysis was used to discover the essence of participants' experiences. Themes around defining masculinity, being a minority in the military, and being a non-traditional gender provider in a tied-migrant worker role emerged. Participants expanded their masculine identities to include performing traditionally feminine tasks as well as placing value on egalitarianism in their spousal relationships when they experience barriers to breadwinning. Limitations (e.g., predominantly White and exclusively heterosexual sample, potential biases in recruitment and analysis, no explicit exploration of how gender role reversal and mental health intersect) and directions for future research to resolve limitations and expand on the current study are presented. Clinical recommendations for psychotherapists are provided with an emphasis on using emotionally focused therapy with couples consisting of civilian husbands and servicewomen.
General Audience Abstract
Civilian men who are married to women serving in the United States military (i.e., civilian husbands of servicewomen) often have disruptions or challenges with their employment when they move to a new place because of their wives' military service. Because men are often expected to be main financial providers for their families (i.e., breadwinners) and civilian husbands' difficulties with employment, as well as the majority of military marriages being between servicemen and civilian wives, civilian husbands may feel they are in a gender role reversal both in their relationships and military communities. This qualitative study examined the experiences of civilian husbands of female service members by interviewing 22 men who moved at least once due to their wife's military service. Descriptive phenomenological analysis was used to discover themes of defining masculinity, being a minority in the military, and being in a tied-migrant worker role. Participants expanded their masculinity to include traditionally feminine tasks and placing value on being equitable in their marriages when faced with challenges to breadwinning. Study limitations regarding demographics and potential biases in recruitment and analysis are discussed, and directions for future research to resolve limitations and expand on the current study are given. Clinical recommendations for psychotherapists are described, especially recommendations for using emotionally focused therapy with couples of civilian husbands and servicewomen.
- Masters Theses