Men's constructions of smoking in the context of women's tobacco reduction during pregnancy and postpartum

Joan L Bottorff, John Oliffe, Cecilia Kalaw, Joanne Carey, Lawrence Mroz
Social Science & Medicine 2006, 62 (12): 3096-108
Men's smoking is largely under-examined despite research that has consistently linked partner smoking to pregnant women's smoking and smoking relapse in the postpartum. An on-going qualitative study involving 31 couples in Canada exploring the influence of couple interactions on women's tobacco reduction provided the opportunity to examine men's smoking in the context of women's tobacco reduction or cessation during pregnancy and postpartum. Individual open-ended interviews with 20 men who smoked were conducted at 0-6 weeks following the birth of their infants and again at 16-24 weeks postpartum. Constant comparative methods were used along with social constructivist perspectives of fatherhood and gender to guide data analysis and enhance theoretical sensitivity. Four themes emerged in men's accounts of their tobacco use: (1) expressing masculinity through smoking, (2) reconciling smoking as a family man, (3) losing the freedom to smoke, and (4) resisting a smoke-less life. Men's reliance on and commitment to dominant ideals of masculinity seemed to preclude them from viewing their partner's tobacco reduction or cessation for pregnancy as an opportunity for cessation. Expectant and new fathers who smoke, however, may be optimally targeted for cessation interventions because it is a time when men experience discomfort with their smoking and when discontinuities in everyday life associated with the transition to fatherhood and presence of a new baby provide opportunities for establishing new routines. Implications for gender-sensitive smoking cessation interventions are discussed.

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