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The Need to Be Superman: The Psychosocial Support Challenges of Young Men Affected by Cancer

Brad Love

Charee M. Thompson

Jessica Knapp

young adult cancer, men, masculinity, social support
ONF 2013, 41(1), E21-E27. DOI: 10.1188/14.ONF.E21-E27

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate how gender-specific issues shape the experiences of young adult men with cancer and what they report to be problematic.

Research Approach: A qualitative, descriptive approach.

Setting: Website, focus group in the southwestern United States, and phone interviews throughout the United States.

Participants: Text from an online forum (N = 3,000 posts), focus group of six men, and separate interviews with four men.

Methodologic Approach: Data analysis took place over two months through constant comparison of online text as well as a focus group and interview transcripts.

Findings: Men face challenges being both a receiver and provider of support in relationships with their peers, romantic partners, and children. Cultural expectations to "be strong" drive their support-seeking beliefs and behaviors.

Conclusions: Men report conflict between desires to show strength and to be honest that present a barrier to support, as well as contribute to inadequate relationships with male peers and greater difficulty in exchanging support with romantic partners.

Interpretation: The authors identified attitudes about and barriers to men's experiences with social support, which healthcare providers, such as nurses, should be sensitive to when developing and providing support.

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