The impact of the 2008 Great Recession on the well-being, young adult development, and masculine identity of emerging adult Irish men

Conway, Thomas
This thesis presents three studies that aim to better understand how the 2008 Great Recession impacted the well-being, masculine identity, and young adult development of young Irish men. Exposure to limited opportunities and occupational uncertainty could lead to mental health problems and hopelessness among young Irish men, particularly those who subscribe to a hegemonic masculine ideology. However, this adverse experience may also cultivate greater creativity and resilience in young men in order to develop increased agency in making their way in contemporary society. The first study used semi-structured interviews with 30 participants to investigate how hegemonic and contemporary masculine characteristics impact the masculine identity of Irish undergraduate emerging adult men. Thematic analysis revealed an awareness of a constantly evolving and increasingly nuanced notion of masculinity that both contradict and support hegemonic masculinity, the practice of maintaining the dominant societal position of men and subordinating women and marginalising minorities. Hegemonic tendencies were evident in practices surrounding alcohol use and the influence of some older male role models. Body objectification, traditionally a female domain, was evident among some young men but this was largely underpinned by hegemonic masculine competitiveness and dominance. The second study employed semi-structured interviews, using thematic analysis, to investigate the impact of the Great Recession on the well-being, masculine identity, and young adult development of 22 young Irish male undergraduates. Emerging adult development during a recession, although stressful, generated resilience that facilitated a pragmatic, positive outlook. However, this study argues that emerging adult theory requires more consideration of socioeconomic conditions. Identity development was affected both positively and negatively in terms of traditional gender roles. Young men who subscribe to hegemonic masculine norms may experience negative repercussions. The third study used semi-structured interviews to explore how the experience of emigration affected the well-being, young adult development, and masculine identity of young Irish men. Interpretative phenomenological analysis revealed that proactive involvement within the new environment, away from expatriate communities, was key for successful transition. There was a release from some hegemonic masculine norms but others, such as breadwinning identity and avoiding help, were evident. Openness to experience and managing initial loneliness was crucial for integration. All participants interpreted the experience as being extremely beneficial for their sense of self in terms of resilience, wellbeing, and confidence. This thesis proposed that there were positive ramifications for young men during a long-term period of economic recession. The adverse environment motivated some young men to cultivate assets that would not have been developed otherwise. Negative impacts of the recession revolved around the influence of hegemonic masculinity on how some young men coped with difficulty. This research aimed to advance knowledge on how a recession impacts young Irish men and provide reasoning into why this specific population is particularly susceptible to negative mental health and suicide during periods economic adversity. Emasculation may occur for men who subscribe to traditional gender ideals but positive attributes may arise from being resilient during times of difficulty.
NUI Galway
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland