Painful emotions and a problem drinking father - considering emotions in the life story interview study on young men
Family Research Centre; Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy University of Jyväskylä Jyväskylä, Finland
In this presentation, I will discuss emotions as part of the life story interview research on the adult sons of problem drinking fathers. The data used in the study consist of 21 life story interviews of Finnish young men aged 21-42. While these young men were growing up, their fathers were problem drinkers. In the interviews young men produced narratives of their lives from an adult perspective.
Earlier studies have shown that drinking can disturb family life and be harmful in various ways to children. In the case of a problem drinking father and his son, also aspects of the father-son- relationship and of the father as a male role model assume major importance. Therefore fathers' drinking may continue to be a sensitive and a painful topic to their sons in adulthood, which may make it difficult for the sons to reflect on the past.
For these reasons, emotions are considered as part of my study in at least two respects: Firstly, disclosure on a sensitive topic may make emotions - which the informants may have for long set aside - rise to the surface in the interview situation. Therefore emotion work is required from both the informant and the interviewer in the situation. Secondly, while analyzing the data, the researcher interprets the sons' accounts of the emotions they have gone through while living in the childhood home and facing the father's problem drinking and its consequences. The emotions that the sons reflect on in the interviews, ranging from sorrow and fear of the father to negligence and forgiveness, are an essential part of the life story interview data. Because life stories contain various phases, alterations and reconsiderations in regard to the sons' perceptions on the father and their relationship, the sons' emotions are in many respects peculiarly ambivalent.