Who gets involved with what? A discourse analysis of gender and caregiving in everyday family life with depression

Jeppe Oute, Lotte Huniche


The recent process of deinstitutionalization of the psychiatric treatment system, in both Denmark and other European countries, has relied heavily on the involvement in treatment and recovery of cohabitant relatives of diagnosed people. However, political objectives regarding depression and involvement rely on a limited body of knowledge about people’s ways of managing illness-related problems in everyday life. Drawing on a discursive notion of gender laid out by Raewyn Connell, the aim of the article is to elucidate how the involvement of relatives is guided by an extra- individual rationale about gender and caregiving, and how this gendered discourse might frame different challenges and burdens, depending on the gender of the diagnosed person and the cohabitant relative. Drawn from a larger, multisited field study on involvement processes in Danish psychiatry, the article is based on field notes and 21 interviews with seven heterosexual couples. The analysis shows that gender works as a decisive premise for the division of caregiving labour among the couples, and clarifies how the couples’ gendered institution is disrupted after the onset of depression. The article argues that gender-blind involvement strategies could produce divergent treatment outcomes and varying social effects in relation to couples’ everyday family lives. 


Involvement; caregiving; gender; discourse; ethnography; interviews

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ISSN: 1904-0210

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