Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Men's Perceptions concerning Disclosure of a Partner's Abortion: Implications for Counseling

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

Men's Perceptions concerning Disclosure of a Partner's Abortion: Implications for Counseling

Article excerpt

Introduction

The body of literature related to men and abortion is relatively small compared to that pertaining to women (Coyle, 2006). While a number of studies have called attention to men's desire or need for counseling concerning pregnancy termination (Gordon, 1978; Lauzon, Roger-Achim, Achim, & Boyer, 2000; Myburgh, Gmeiner, & Van Wyk, 2001a; Papworth, 2011; Rodrigues & Hoga, 2006; Rothstein 1977b), none have investigated men's perceptions regarding their disclosure of the abortion experience and how those perceptions may inform counseling. This internet-based study is unique in its focus on men's assessment of both the positive and negative aspects of discussing the abortion with others. Implications for counseling are discussed.

Men and Abortion

While studies pertaining to men's experience with a partner's abortion are limited in number, they do present a consistency of findings. Notably, studies have found that most men do not perceive elective abortion to be an easy experience and without psychological stress (Gordon & Kilpatrick, 1977; Poggenpoel & Myburgh, 2002; Shostak, 1979; Shostak, 1983). Shostak and McLouth (1984) surveyed 1,000 men who accompanied their female partners for abortion and subsequently interviewed 75 of the men after abortion. These authors found that 68% of the first group and 75% of the latter group disagreed that "males involved in an abortion generally have an easy time of it" and 47% of the clinic group vs. 63% of men interviewed after abortion agreed, "that males involved in an abortion generally have disturbing thoughts about it afterward," (Shostak & McLouth, 1984, p. 115). Buchanan and Robbins (1990) conducted a longitudinal investigation of the adult consequences for men who experienced pregnancy during their adolescence. Adult men were assessed for psychological stress and analyses revealed that "the effects of an abortion or single parenthood are statistically significant, but those who had the child and married or lived together were not significantly more distressed than those who never experienced an adolescent pregnancy," (Buchanan & Robbins, 1990, p. 420). These findings suggest the possibility of enduring psychological effects from both abortion and single parenthood.

Feelings of grief and loss seem to be especially common among men whose partners undergo induced abortion (Coyle & Rue, 2010; Ferguson & Hogan, 2007; Kero & Lalos, 2000; Mattinson, 1985). Clinicians Speckhard and Rue (1993) proposed that men who do not effectively process their grief may experience complicated mourning. Furthermore, Rue (1985, 1996) submitted that, in addition to grief, induced abortion may create confusion about men's role performance and threats to masculinity.

Other emotional responses observed among men following a partner's elective abortion include: relief (Kero, Lalos, & Wulff, 2010), anger (Coyle & Enright, 1997; Coyle & Rue, 2010; Naziri, 2007), guilt (Coyle & Rue, 2010; DuBouis-Bonnefond & Galle-Tessonneau, 1982; Gordon & Kilpatrick, 1977; Poggenpoel & Myburgh, 2002; Rothstein, 1991; Rue, 1996), and anxiety (Coyle & Rue, 2010; DuBouis-Bonnefond & Galle-Tessonneau, 1982; Gordon & Kilpatrick, 1977; Rothstein, 1991; Rue, 1985; Schelotto & Arcuri, 1986). Coyle and Rue (2010), utilizing the Spielberg Anxiety Inventory, reported post-abortion men's average state anxiety scores to be in the clinically significant range and exceeding the state anxiety means reported by Spielberger (1983) for samples of depressed and anxious male patients.

Closely related to anxiety is a sense of helplessness and several studies have reported feelings of helplessness among men whose partners undergo induced abortion (Coyle & Rue, 2010; Halldén & Christensson, 2010; Myburgh, Gmeiner, & Van Wyk, 2001b; Poggenpoel & Myburgh, 2002). Yet, in spite of feeling helpless, men seem motivated to be helpful to their partners and many attempt to support them regardless of disagreement about the abortion decision (Gordon & Kilpatrick, 1977; Halldén & Christensson, 2010; Robson, 2002; Shostak & McLouth, 1984). …

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