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Understanding adolescent mental health: the influence of social processes, doing gender and gendered power relations
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2996-3348
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Health Sciences.
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2148-8044
2009 (English)In: Sociology of Health and Illness, ISSN 0141-9889, E-ISSN 1467-9566, Vol. 31, no 7, p. 962-978Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Despite a well-documented gender pattern in adolescent mental health, research investigating possible explanatory factors from a gender-theoretical approach is scarce. This paper reports a grounded theory study based on 29 focus groups. The aim was to explore 16- to 19-year-old students' perceptions of what is significant for mental health, and to apply a gender analysis to the findings in order to advance understanding of the gender pattern in adolescent mental health. Significant factors were identified in three social processes categories, including both positive and negative aspects: (1) social interactions, (2) performance and (3) responsibility. Girls more often experienced negative aspects of these processes, placing them at greater risk for mental health problems. Boys' more positive mental health appeared to be associated with their low degree of responsibility-taking and beneficial positions relative to girls. Negotiating cultural norms of femininity and masculinity seemed to be more strenuous for girls, which could place them at a disadvantage with regard to mental health. Social factors and processes (particularly responsibility), gendered power relations and constructions of masculinities and femininities should be acknowledged as important for adolescent mental health.

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 31, no 7, p. 962-978
Keywords [en]
femininity, masculinity, focus groups, mental health, gender
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-7850DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2009.01170.xISI: 000271043700002PubMedID: 19659740Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-70350493082OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-7850DiVA, id: diva2:132639
Available from: 2010-09-17 Created: 2008-12-22 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Life circumstances and adolescent mental health: Perceptions, associations and a gender analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life circumstances and adolescent mental health: Perceptions, associations and a gender analysis
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Despite a well-documented gender pattern of adolescent mental health, public health research investigating possible influencing factors from a gender-theoretical approach is scarce. This study aimed to explore what factors and circumstances are related to adolescent mental health and to apply a gender analysis to the findings in order to improve the understanding of the relationships between life circumstances and the gendered patterning of mental health among young people.

 

The study population was 16-19-year-old Swedish students and data was collected by means of focus groups (N=29) and self-administered questionnaires (N=1,663, 78.3% response rate) in school settings. Mental health problems were defined in a broad sense including the adolescents’ own understandings, perceived stress, psychological distress and deliberate self-harm.

 

The mental health problems of perceived stress, psychological distress and deliberate self-harm were twice as common among girls as boys. The findings suggest that adolescent mental health is associated with the life circumstances of social relationships, demands and responsibility taking and experiences of violence and harassment.  Supportive relationships with friends, family and teachers were found to be of importance to positive mental health, whereas poor social relationships, loneliness and lack of influence were associated with mental health problems.  Perceived demands and responsibility taking regarding school work, relationships, future plans, appearance and financial issues were strongly related to mental health problems, particularly among girls regardless of social class. The results indicate that physical violence, sexual assault, bullying and sexual harassment are severe risk factors for mental health problems in young people. Boys and girls experienced different types of violence, and the victim-perpetrator relationships of physical violence differed. These diverging experiences appeared to influence the associations with mental health problems in boys and girls.

 

A gender analysis provides the tools to gain knowledge about the ways that boys’ and girls’ lives are shaped by gender relations and constructions at different levels in society and how these life circumstances represent risk- or protective factors for mental health. For example, unequal power structures and the ways girls are expected to ‘do’ femininity likely influence their life circumstances in ways that place them at greater risk of mental health problems. Hegemonic constructions of masculinity and advantaged positions likely contribute to life circumstances that are positive for mental health but are also implying risk factors for poor mental health among boys, e.g., violence. It is also important to recognise how the intertwined cultural and structural aspects of gender and social class influence the lives and mental health of boys and girls. In conclusion, gendered and class-related mechanisms at the different levels in society influence the distribution of risk factors unevenly among boys and girls, which could be a possible explanation for the gender differences in reports of perceived stress, psychological distress and deliberate self-harm.

 

The likelihood of gender and socioeconomic differences in mental health problems should be taken into account in prevention and health promotion strategies at all levels in society. A greater awareness about gender relations and the gendered social circumstances under which young people live is required. The school environment is an important arena with respect to prevention and health promotion. There is also a need for a joint action against violence and harassment at all levels in society. Implications do not only concern young people; social policy and legislation should focus on reducing gender and class inequalities in general.

Abstract [sv]

Sammanfattning

Svensk titel: Livsvillkor och ungdomars psykiska hälsa: uppfattningar, associationer och en genusanalys.

 

Trots ett väldokumenterat genusmönster i ungdomars psykiska hälsa finns det en kunskapslucka i den folkhälsovetenskapliga forskningen avseende genusteoretiska analyser av sambanden mellan ungas livsvillkor och psykisk hälsa. Föreliggande studie syftade till att undersöka vilka faktorer och omständigheter som är relaterade till psykiska problem, samt att analysera fynden ur ett genusperspektiv för att fördjupa förståelsen av relationerna mellan ungas livsvillkor och genusmönster i psykiska hälsa.

 

Studiepopulationen var gymnasielever i åldern 16-19 år. Studien genomfördes i skolmiljö och data insamlades genom fokusgrupper (N=29) och en enkätstudie (N=1,663, 78.3% svarsfrekvens). En bred definition av psykisk ohälsa tillämpades vilken representerades av ungdomarnas egen förståelse, samt de psykiska problemen upplevd stress, psykiska besvär samt självskadebeteende.

 

Resultaten visade att stress, psykiska besvär och självskadebeteende var dubbelt så vanligt bland flickor som bland pojkar. Psykiska problem var relaterade till livsvillkoren sociala relationer, krav och ansvarstagande samt utsatthet för våld och trakasserier. Stödjande relationer med vänner, familj och lärare var av stor betydelse för psykisk hälsa medan dåliga relationer, ensamhet och brist på inflytande var relaterat till psykiska problem. Psykiska problem var starkt kopplade till erfarenheter av höga krav och ansvarstagande avseende skolarbete, relationer, framtidsplaner, utseende och ekonomi, i synnerhet bland flickor oavsett socioekonomisk bakgrund. Resultaten indikerar att olika former av våld och trakasserier är allvarliga riskfaktorer för psykiska problem och att flickors och pojkars skiljda erfarenheter av olika former av våld samt relationen till förövaren, kan vara relaterade till skillnader i psykiska problem.

 

Genusanalysen av resultaten föreslår att flickors livsvillkor påverkas av ojämlika maktstrukturer och konstruktioner av femininitet och att dessa livsvillkor bidrar till en ökad risk för psykisk ohälsa bland flickor. Livsvillkor kopplade till manlig överordning och hegemoniska konstruktioner av maskulinitet influerar sannolikt pojkars psykiska hälsa positivt. Dessa villkor kan dock också innebära risk faktorer för psykiska problem, t.ex. i fråga om våld. Studien uppmärksammar även hur kulturella och strukturella aspekter av både genus och social klass kan påverka livsvillkor och psykisk hälsa för pojkar och flickor. Studiens slutsats är att genusifierade och klassrelaterade mekanismer på olika nivåer i samhället bidrar till en skev fördelning av riskfaktorer för psykiska problem vilket kan vara en möjlig förklaring till skillnaderna mellan pojkar och flickor i fråga om upplevd stress, psykiska besvär och självskadebeteende.

 

Genus- och socioekonomiska skillnader i psykiska problem bör tas i beaktande i preventivt och hälsofrämjande arbete på alla nivåer i samhället. Detsamma gäller för en ökad medvetenhet om hur ungas livsvillkor är relaterade till psykisk hälsa och hur dessa villkor är genus- och klassrelaterade. Studien uppmärksammar skolan som en viktig arena för preventivt och hälsofrämjande arbete samt att gemensamma insatser krävs på olika arenor för att motverka våld och trakasserier. Implikationer av studien omfattar även generella samhällspolitiska insatser för minskad ojämlikhet.

Nyckelord: Stress; psykiska besvär; självskadebeteende; gymnasieelever; maskulinitet; femininitet; sociala determinanter; sociala relationer; krav; ansvarstagande; våld och trakasserier; skola.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sundsvall: Mid Sweden University, 2010. p. 96
Series
Mid Sweden University doctoral thesis, ISSN 1652-893X ; 93
Keywords
Stress; Psychological distress; Deliberate self-harm; Students; masculinity, femininity; social determinants; social relationships; demands; responsibility taking; violence and harassment; school.
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-11982 (URN)978-91-86073-89-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-12-17, M108, Campus Sundsvall, Sundsvall, 10:30 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
Forskarutbildningsämne: Hälsovetenskap. Available from: 2010-10-20 Created: 2010-09-17 Last updated: 2010-11-29Bibliographically approved

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Landstedt, EvelinaAsplund, KennethGillander Gådin, Katja

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