Saturday, June 30, 2007

My father takes a vacation

When Martin Johnson's mother died, his father disappeared for a month to cycle in Ireland, leaving his family in Sweden. Thereafter, he disappeared from time to time. He has since moved to New Zealand, without his family. My father takes a vacation is a Documentary on One programme from RTÉ Radio One in which Martin Johnson makes the same Irish journey in an attempt to understand his father. Read more here or listen to/download the programme here.....

Friday, June 29, 2007

Violent teens - male and female - make violent partners

Adolescents who are violent during their teenage years are significantly more likely than other young adults to be violent towards their partners later on, says this report in Medical News Today on a new University of Washington study.

In the study, nearly twice as many women as men said they perpetrated domestic violence in the past year including kicking, biting or punching their partner, threatening to hit or throw something at their partner, and pushing, grabbing or shoving their partner.

While there is growing recognition that women as well as men perpetrate domestic violence, (see Domestic abuse affects almost one fifth of men, research suggests) the proportion in this study is startlingly high and I must say I would like to see a closer examination of it. It's also worrying given reports of increasing violence by 'girl gangs' whose members will later, in some cases, bring their violence into their homes.

However, the study underlines the importance of working with violent teenagers, male and female, to encourage them to change their behaviour and not just to wait for them to grow out of it.....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Men's mental health discussion on BBC Radio 4

Seventy five per cent of suicides in the UK are by men, and it’s thought that they are just as susceptible to depression as women, but are far less likely to be diagnosed, according to this item on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. In fact almost two thirds of male prisoners now on remand have mental health problems. Rufus May, clinical psychologist with Bradford District Care Trust's assertive outreach team, Mark Micale author of “The Male Malady" and Dr Ian Banks, from the Men’s Health Forum discuss the issue.....

Teenage girls believe they must slim to attract the boys

The vast majority of Irish teenage girls believe it is important to be slim to attract the attention of boys and achieve more self-confidence, a new study has found, writes Alison Healy in this story in The Irish Times.

The study of 400 girls, aged between 14 and 16, found that 80 per cent believed they needed to be thin to attract the opposite sex, the story says. Almost three quarters of the girls surveyed said they were unhappy with their body shape.

The research was conducted throughout the State by University of Ulster doctoral student Elaine Mooney. She found that 46 per cent of girls saw themselves as being fat when in fact they were not overweight. Ms Mooney, a home economics lecturer at St Angela's College, Sligo, outlined her findings at a University of Ulster conference on consumer science research at Jordanstown, Co Antrim, yesterday.

She said that attracting the opposite sex was a recurrent theme in the research. "Boys featured highly and they really believe that if you want to get a boy you must look thin. They believe it is all based on appearance first and then personality."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Barrister jailed despite pleas from ex-wife for Child Support Agency to leave him alone

Britain's Child Support Agency has long been a source of stories about its pig-headedness. The latest is its insistence on jailing barrister Michael Cox  for refusing to pay the CSA £365 a month as an absent parent. Trouble is, Cox isn't an absent parent: his children live with him half their time. His ex-wife, who also works, says she could not hold down a job unless the children spent as much time with him as they do. She has asked the CSA to push off and leave them alone. But the CSA will not be moved. Cox - who is legal advisor to Fathers 4 Justice - must go to jail for 42 days which means, of course, that his ex-wife will have to find some other way to get the children minded so she can keep her job. It's all in this story in The Guardian (you have to work your way down to the middle of the story for this bit). Oh, the CSA is being wound up because it's not very good at what it does. Surprise, surprise.....

The world's most perfectly developed man - without steroids

Maybe I read the wrong magazines but the days of the Charles Atlas (right, with female admirers) ads promising that "you too can have a body like mine" seem to be over, says my That's Men for You Column in today's Irish Times.

Now, I do not want a visit from the heirs of “the World's Most Perfectly Developed Man” as he called himself so I had better say right now that the Charles Atlas company is alive and well on the Internet.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, Charles Atlas promised that if you bought and faithfully followed his mail-order course you would no longer have to suffer the ignominy of being “a 97-pound weakling”. Instead, you could develop yourself into a muscular man able to defend his honour and that of his adoring girlfriend.

This is really only matters because the Charles Atlas ads provided many young men with an image of how they ought to look - and to look like a 97-pound weakling was bad.

Although the Charles Atlas physique was marketed as a means of impressing your girlfriend. I suspect it had more to do with impressing other men in the same way that women dress to impress other women on the basis that men wouldn't really notice if they were wearing a sack.

In Ireland, when Charles Atlas was in his heyday, men were less concerned with their body image than they are now. Today the concern with body image is growing. There are gyms and we can afford to go to them.

Becoming a one-man self-admiration society in the gym is one thing. More worryingly, increasing numbers of young men take steroids to build up their muscle mass. In doing so they increase their chances of developing heart disease later on, of developing a psychological dependency and of suffering depression when withdrawing from them.

Frankly, I would rather get sand kicked in my face - the ultimate fate of the 97-pound weakling according to Charles Atlas.

Even absent dads boost learning, adjustment and caring in kids - if they're involved

I wrote this for the Evening Herald, published 15th June 2007: Would you like to see more children growing up to be industrious, better educated and less likely to get in trouble with the law?

A report out this week from Barnardos suggests that one way to do this is to encourage fathers to be more involved with their children.

If that sounds blindingly obvious, just take a moment to look at some of the benefits outlined by Barnardos when launching the report on its “Da” project:

- Children are more likely to do well in primary school when their father shows kindness, care and warmth towards them at an early stage.

- Children are more likely to learn when their father shows a keen interest in learning.

- Children are more likely to be productive, industrious and caring members of society if their father takes an active interest in them.

- Children are less likely to end up in the criminal justice system when they have had regular contact with their father before the age of 11.

Living as we do in the age of the expert when everything must be made complicated, it’s heartening to see that such impressive benefits can flow from ordinary human warmth and involvement.

But bringing about this level of involvement by fathers is not necessarily a simple matter.

According to Barnardos’ “Da” project leader, Finola Halligan, most fathers want to be more involved in their children’s lives but family break-down, work demands and other obstacles stand in their way.

And Barnardos’ Francis Chance added that “too often fathers are invisible when state, community and voluntary services work with families.”

Barnardos’ findings, based on a project in Ballyfermot, are supported by research elsewhere. Recent research in the UK, for instance, found that children whose separated fathers stay involved with them are less likely to get into trouble than those whose fathers are uninvolved.

The growth in marriage breakdown and therefore in the number of one parent families makes it all the more important that obstacles to a father's involvement with his children should be tackled.

Recent census figures show that fewer than one in five households in Dublin city are now made up of the traditional family of husband, wife and children. Indeed, the number of traditional households actually declined in the main cities between 2002 2006.

One person households, on the other hand, continue to increase and more than 17% of these were made up of a separated, divorced person or married person living alone.

We must also take into account the number of cases in which the parents of a child have never lived together. In such cases, the risk of poor involvement by the father is probably higher than in that of separated, previously married parents.

Given that access to children can become the subject of legal battles, surely it is also time to allow the media to report proceedings in the family courts without identifying the participants? A recent report by Ireland's court reporter, Dr Carol Coulter, found that most issues of access to the children are settled amicably and without a court appearance. But some separated fathers responded that this is because men feel they will get a raw deal from the court and that they have no option but to settle on the steps, perhaps for less access than they really want. The way to settle the argument is to allow the media into the family courts.

But the overall message from this week’s Barnardos report is that such old-fashioned human qualities as love, caring and warmth really do make a difference to children and to the adults they become.

Related post:

Quiklink: Barnardos' 'Da Project' highlights important role of fathers in childrens' lives

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quiklink: When rape is not rape

When rape is not rape on the impact of being accused of rape in conversation without a trial, on Sam de Brito's All Men Are Liars blog.

Quiklink: Husbands of Queens

Husbands of Queens what are they for? asks BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Quiklink: It's the last stop for Metro Man

It's the last stop for Metro Man says Deirdre Reynolds in The Irish Independent.

Related post:
Men, eye-liner and sex appeal

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dublin's Gay Pride Parade teaches blogger a lesson

Watching the Gay Pride Parade in Dublin yesterday I learned something about myself and something about gay people.

I had gone into town to get my Mont Blanc fountain pen repaired when I was stopped in my tracks by Gay Pride. The last time I went into town to get something repaired was Last year when I was stopped in my tracks by the aftermath of a Republican riot. Like most Irish people I will pick Gay Pride over those green gobshites any day.

Anyway, the Gay Pride parade had its usual quota of the flamboyant, the colourful and the outrageous. But 90 per cent of the participants looked like such ordinary, rainy-day people that I found myself thinking "They're not gay - they're only here for a laugh."

So I learned I had a prejudice whereby I expected gay people to be startlingly camp and that some part of my mind thinks that if you are "ordinary" you can't be gay.

What I learned about gay people is that 90 per cent of them are as far removed from the camp scene as are heterosexuals.

Does the camp scene suit heterosexual society by portraying gay people as odd and marginalised? Is it we straights who are most entertained by camp-ness? And how many gay people grind their teeth in frustration when they see the feather boas, the fake tans and the blonde wigs on the television news?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Posts with comments

Dad drowns daughters in bath, then kills himself

No one took away fathers' rights: they gave them away says Sarah Carey

Quiklink: Barnardos’ ‘Da Project’ highlights important role of fathers in children’s lives

Angry wife drove car over husband after mobile phone message

Groups for separated fathers in Ireland growing

From Irish mammy to yummy mummy

Like A Man: The blurb

Making fathers of young dads

Fathers: Larger than life

Election Diary: Guns 'n' Roses: Rabbite-Adams the dream ticket?

Men, eye-liner and sex appeal

More Irish divorces, separations, settled amicably than expected, report finds

Quiklink: Why men skip doctor visits

Why men skip doctor visits, an age-old question addressed on MedicineNet.

Related post:
Getting inside men's health - report

New women doctors outnumber men in the UK

Newly-qualified women doctors outnumber their male counterparts by almost three to two, a survey suggests, says this story on the BBC.

The British Medical (BMA) found that 58% of doctors who graduated in 2006 were female compared with 51% in 1995.

The poll of 435 doctors suggests one in five female doctors anticipate working part-time for most of their career. The figure for men was one in 25.
Related post:
Is the future female?

Dad drowns daughters in bath, then kills himself

The murder of children in a marital dispute seems to be primarily a male activity, I wrote in the original version of this post. However, if you check the comments, below, you will see that I may have been wrong and that parental murder of children may be at least a 50/50 male/female activity. The post was based on this story in the Irish Independent about a father in New Jersey but originally from Ireland who drowned his two small daughters and then hanged himself. His marriage had broken down two months earlier and the children had been visiting him. I have never been able to dredge up an iota of sympathy for men or women who behave like this. How dare they assume they have a right to exercise the power of life and death over their children? These people get Church funerals with kind words spoken by clergy - frankly I believe they should be denied any rites of any kind.

More important is the question of what sort of thinking leads people - men or women - to behave in this way? And what can be done about it? Any ideas anyone?

Related post:
Current or former partners kill two women a week in the UK

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Quiklink: Media anger at U-turn over family courts

Media anger at U-turn over family courts as British government drops plans to allow access to family courts and moves instead to reduce access still further says The Guardian.

Related post:
Quiklink: Transparency in the family courts

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Two thirds of men and one third of women don't report domestic abuse says UK report

Sixty two per cent of those men and 34 per cent of those women who have been victims of domestic abuse have never told anyone, says a new report from the British Medical Association, according to this story in The Guardian. As a result, the full extent of domestic abuse cannot be known, the report says. More than 350,000 people in England and Wales alone are reported to suffer it.

Partner abuse is common and it happens as frequently in same-sex relationships as in heterosexual ones, the report says.

Around 750,000 children each year witness domestic abuse, the report says. Around 30% of abuse begins when a woman in a relationship is pregnant.

Related post:
Domestic abuse affects almost one fifth of men, research suggests

Quiklink: Transparency in the family courts

Transparency in the family courts Discussion on BBC Radio Four Woman's Hour on new British plans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unfair treatment: the killer in the workplace

Human beings have a fundamental need to be treated fairly. Now, a piece of research conducted among thousands of civil servants in London for more than a decade suggests that unfair treatment in the workplace can actually kill, says my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times.

The research among British civil servants was conducted by a team led by Dr Roberto De Vogli at University College London. The numbers and the time scale for the research are impressive: more than 8,000 civil servants in London were studied over an average period of eleven years.

The researchers found that those who said they had been treated unfairly were 50% more likely than their colleagues to say that their physical or mental health was poor.

More alarmingly, they were 55% more likely to have had a heart attack or symptoms of heart disease.

According to the report on this research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, other studies have found that where an employing organisation insists on fair treatment of its workforce, the likelihood of heart disease actually falls.

Fairness you might say saves lives; unfairness can kill. Perhaps it can do worse than kill: there is reason to believe that hypertension, as measured by high blood pressure, can contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

There's more on the research in this story on the website of the Men's Health Forum for England and Wales.....

Related post:

Gravely ill have better quality of life than senior managers

No one took away fathers' rights: they gave them away says Sarah Carey

Fathers aren’t valued because so many women were left holding the baby they discovered they could get along without them, wrote Sarah Carey in a recent Sunday Times column reproduced here on her GUBU blog.

"..... I resent the notion that marauding feminists stormed the Dail and the Courts and stole rights from men," she wrote. "No one took away fathers rights: they gave them away. They ran off and came back to discover themselves surplus to requirements."

To see responses to her column, also published in the Sunday Times, click on the comments tag below (thanks mctavish).....

Related post:
Election Diary: Fathers Rights-Responsibility Party runs eight candidates

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quiklink: The paternal instinct

The paternal instinct, an article by Blake Morrison on men who stay home to raise the kids in The Guardian.

A quarter of UK children must cope with parents' separation or divorce

Of the twelve million children in the UK, around three million are having to cope with their parents’ separation or divorce. In an open letter to The Times, several charities and child care experts have said that not enough is being done to assist with the emotional fallout on children of divorce and are calling on the Government to establish a departmental approach to best support families. In this programme on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour, Ritula Shah discusses the subject with Jade - a teenager whose parents divorced when she was 2 - Duncan Fisher - from Fathers Direct - and child and adult therapist Valerie Sinason.....

Irishmen have a lot to learn about contraception and safe sex

Irishmen still have a lot of learn about contraception and safe sex, according to a new report, Men, Sexuality and Crisis Pregnancy: A study of Men’s Experience from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (download page here).

Professor Harry Ferguson and Fergus Hogan, authors of the report, interviewed 45 men on their sexual histories, knowledge of sex and how they acquired it, contraception, sexual practices and pregnancy services. The researchers specifically recruited men who had experienced an unplanned pregnancy –30 men in the sample of 45. Nineteen of these men experienced a crisis pregnancy.

The research found a general lack of knowledge of women's menstrual cycle and a belief that the “withdrawal” method is an acceptable method of contraception, even though the men had doubts about the level of protection it provided against pregnancy.

There were also instances where men felt pressured to have sex before they understood their capacity to make a woman pregnant.

The term “safe sex” meant different things to different men. For some men it meant preventing pregnancy, for some it meant penetrative sex without ejaculation, for others it meant preventing sexually transmitted infections. In fact, there was very little awareness of STIs in this sample in general.

In addition, some men reported that they did not use condoms because they were embarrassed to buy them, they interrupted sexual pleasure, they were under the influence of alcohol, they thought that condoms could not be trusted, they were in the habit of relying on emergency contraception, or they deferred the responsibility for contraceptive decisions to the woman.

Although 30 men in the report had experienced an unplanned pregnancy, 11 of the men, primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds, welcomed the pregnancy, seeing an opportunity to find a meaningful role for themselves as fathers.

Nineteen of the men in the report had experienced a crisis pregnancy. In the ten cases where the pregnancy went to full-term, the authors found that the defining characteristics of these situations were; the man had some kind of vision of himself as a father, he was willing to state his wishes and feelings in relation to the pregnancy and he showed willingness to have a flexible approach to creating a family. Other defining characteristics were the couple's belief that their parents and extended family would support them as a couple, and the capacity of the couple to adopt a flexible definition of family, which is not linked to marriage or cohabitation. For example, the couple may decide not to live together, but the man would still have an active role as a father.

Crisis Pregnancy Counselling is available free of charge to women and men at over 30 locations around the country. To access the services, freetext list to 50444 or visit

Authors of the report are: Harry Ferguson, Professor of Social Work at the University of the West of England, Bristol and Fergus Hogan, Course Leader in Applied Social Studies and Academic Co-ordinator of the Centre for Social and Family Research, Waterford Institute of Technology.

While the Agency has concentrated on general access and knowledge of counselling services, it says it will now work towards increasing awareness among men that crisis pregnancy counselling services are available to them, free of charge, to talk in confidence about their experience. Kerry Counselling Service have been funded, on a pilot basis, to offer a free support group for men experiencing crisis pregnancy. Funding has also been allocated to the Teen Parent Support Programme in Co. Louth to increase the awareness and engagement of men during crisis pregnancy and in parenting their child.....

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Male identity: sober householder or rowdy drunk but that was 400 years ago

Four hundred years ago to be a man in English society was to have the economic means to support a family and the temperament to govern your own passions as well as the behaviour of wife, children and servants, according to Alexandra Shepard in her book Meanings of Manhood in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press). But during the period 1560 to 1640, the proportion of men who could attain this level of economic independence declined. For others, "the world of drink, gaming and roistering condemned by the conduct books represented an alternative model of manhood, always attractive to some," writes Professor Bernard Capp in this review on the website of the Institute of Historical Research.....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

For Father's Day how about giving Dad a vacation?

That's the question posed in a press statement from US organisation Take Back Your Time.

Father's Day falls right before the Summer Solstice, when school is out and the vacation season used to begin, it says. But this year, only 14% of Americans will take two weeks off. More than half won't even take a week. 55% of Americans plan on using what vacation days they have to extend the weekend here and there. A quarter of Americans get no paid leave.

"A desk clerk in a hotel where I was staying a few weeks ago told me her employer had canceled her vacation for the seventh year in a row," says Take Back Your Time's national coordinator John de Graaf. "She was almost crying when she told me."

"I used to remember when I was a kid and the family took two week camping trips to the national parks," adds board member Joe Robinson. "Long weekends don't cut it. Studies show people need two weeks or more off for vacations to improve their health, family bonding or productivity."

A new study by Rebecca Ray and John Schmitt of the Center for Economics and Policy Research ( calls the United States the "No Vacation Nation.," pointing out that all other industrial countries mandate paid vacations, with the minimum paid time off in Europe being four weeks.

Fathers want more time for their families, according to several new studies. 38% say they'd even sacrifice income to get it. With workplace stress and burnout already costing the United States more than $300 billion a year, Take Back Your Time says "enough is enough." The organization is calling on Congress to pass legislation providing 3 weeks of paid vacation to all Americans.

"Fathers need it. Mothers need it. Our health needs it. And evidence from many companies shows that it will even improve our productivity," says Executive Director Lisa Stuebing. "Father's Day should be more than an excuse to sell cards and clothes. Let's give Dad and the whole family a real present--the right to a vacation."

Horrible, horrible. Don't let this happen in Ireland, guys.....

Quiklink: Daddies' girls choose men just like their fathers

Daddies' girls choose men just like their fathers says Science Daily.

Quiklink: Dating violence and sexual assault associated with suicide attempts among urban teens

Dating violence and sexual assault associated with suicide attempts among urban teens says this report on male and female teen suicide attempts in Science Daily.

Quiklink: Fathers have great impact on their children's lives, even when not at home

Fathers have great impact on their children's lives, even when not at home says Science Daily.

Quiklink: A philosophical look at slutness

A philosophical look at slutness Joyanna Adams on how sexually active women are called 'sluts' while their male counterparts are 'studs' in Mens News Daily.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quiklink: What men still don't know about women, relationships, and love

What Men Still Don't Know About Women, Relationships, and Love podcast interview with Dr Herb Goldberg on psychojourney.

Sit up straight - how complicated is that?

Sometimes I wonder how we came to complicate mental health to the point where some people see a doctor's prescription as the way to treat a touch of the blues. Of course, there are levels of depression, anxiety and distress which require skilled professional intervention. But there are also lots of simple things we can do for ourselves, at no cost, to improve our mood.

My Irish Times column That's Men for You this week deals with how we affect our mood by our physical demeanour. It refers to one study (link is to a pdf file) in which participants were asked to adopt the facial expressions linked with happiness anger and sadness. When they were tested later, those who had assumed facial expressions consistent with happiness were happier than they had been at the start, those who had assumed an angry look were angrier than at the start and so on. Even the sort of memories. Interestingly, when asked to recall events from their lives, those who had practised looking angry were more likely to recall “angry” memories and so on.

In another experiment, reported on the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog, men who sat up straight for three minutes did better in a subsequent maths test than men who slouched! Curiously, the sitting-up-straight effect didn't work for women - females who slouched did better than females who sat up straight.

The idea that our physical demeanour affects our mood can be traced back at least as far as the great American psychologist William James and probably farther. Indeed, Buddhist psychology suggests that our moods are the result of certain conditions - so if, say, you walk confidently you have created one of the conditions that can lead to a feeling of confidence.

Try it, see what happens.....

Monday, June 11, 2007

Men's Health Week - are we men feckless and indulgent?

It's Men's Health Week in Ireland and in the UK and, as always, the statistics make grim reading and make you wonder if we men are feckless, self-indulgent creatures with little regard for our health. After all smoking, drinking, obesity and sitting around on your ass when you could be getting some aerobic exercise are among the reasons for poor health in men relative to women. According to the Men's Health Forum in Ireland, men's health suffers from risk-taking, leaving it too late to go to the doctor and a reluctance to take care of ourself once diagnosed or to use such support services as exist.

Fair enough - but I suspect our poor attitude to health is also an outcome of the historical expectation that men will do dirty and dangerous work and that they will get themselves blown to pieces in war if their nation demands it. If that's where we came from you can hardly expect us to run to the doctor with every ache and pain.

And as the Forum put it in a recent press release: "Health services have been slow to recognise the particular issues affecting men in relation to long-term health conditions. The lack of 'make-friendly' primary care services can delay diagnosis and inhibit men’s use of ongoing care and support services. Pharmacy services are not yet sufficiently engaged with men to provide advice and information about self-care. Published health information is rarely designed to appeal to the male reader."

So it's not just carelessness on the part of men: our history brought us to this point and both we and our health services need to get up to speed on this life or death issue.....

UK's National Men's Health Week starts today

One in three people in the UK is currently living with a long-term medical condition and a significant proportion of this number will be men, says this statement from the Men's Health Forum for England and Wales which has organised National Men's Health Week 2007, starting today.. However, men are increasingly unlikely to visit a doctor or engage with other health services and health promotion campaigns often fail to take account of the need for ‘gender-sensitivity’ in reaching male audiences.....

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Tubridy show on men's emotions and relationships

Ryan Tubridy (right) interviewed me on his RTE Radio One show about the Like A Man book and men's emotions and relationships in general. I argued that Breakfast Roll Man, to use Pat Rabbitte's phrase, is increasingly interested in psychology, emotions and relationships, especially his relationship with Latté Lady, to use a phrase of my own. You can listen to the interview or download it from here....

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Unfair treatment can kill, says British researh

People who feel unfairly treated are at a greater risk of a heart attack and in worse overall physical and mental health, according to research from the UK and Finland, says this story on the website of the Men's Health Forum for England and Wales.

This was a major study - researchers followed 8,298 London-based civil servants for an average of 11 years – and after adjustments were made for age, sex and other factors, people who reported higher levels of unfair treatment:

  • were 55% more likely to have a heart attack or to have developed heart disease/chest pain during the follow-up period.
  • 46% more likely to report poor physical health and
  • 54% more likely to have poor mental health.....

Friday, June 8, 2007

Men's summer school in Castlebar

The annual Men’s Development Network summer school will take place in Castlebar, Co Mayo, from June 13-15 next. This year's event is named for John O’Rourke, chairman of the Men's Development Network who died last year. The organisers say the Summer School offers "the opportunity to find support for yourself and to offer it to other men. Explore honestly and in safety, the events shaping your life and find space to look towards your future." There's more on the summer school here at

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Men in cardigans - a step too far?

Has the man who puts on a cardigan passed a momentous milestone in his life? ask my That's Men for You column in today's Irish Times. Is he indicating that he is no longer for the wars and that, so to speak, “home is the sailor from the sea, the hunter from the hill”? Is it time for a good snooze, a mug of hot chocolate and early to bed? The column is part of the Irish Times' premium content so I can't reproduce it here.

In the UK, sales of cardigans have increased tenfold in some leading retailers in the past year, it says. Even David Beckham has taken to wearing a cardigan occasionally. There again, David Beckham has been known to wear his wife's hairband, her knickers and a sari so perhaps he is not the most reliable guide to what's coming next for today's man.

I learnt all this from listening to an item on Woman's Hour on BBC Radio Four. And, yes, I fully realise that this means I should probably be wearing a cardigan myself. But I have resisted and I hope to continue to resist any involvement with this garment.

What are the health implications of the cardigan? I suppose you could argue that the cardigan wearer could reduce his stress levels by fiddling by playing with his buttons, like worry beads. And I don’t suppose the cardigan wearer will want to go boy racing, taking drugs (except those prescribed by his doctor) or drinking cider at midnight on the canal bank. All that is to the good. But is it enough to justify the risk of hurtling down the slippery slope towards socks with sandals and handkerchiefs on heads?

I think not.....

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fears of suspicion deter some men from working with kids

Troubled children are being deprived of male mentors because many men are afraid their good intentions might be misinterpreted, two charities have warned, says this story in The Guardian. The charities commissioned a survey which found that 13% of men who don't volunteer with children said it was because of fears they might be perceived as a possible paedophile.....

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Do only one thing for me: live life - a daughter's plea to a depressed dad

When Sarah Griffin was nine years old, she began a diary to help her cope with her dad's severe depression. It gives an unflinching account of how the entire family lived with the spectre of his illness, and then his death. She has now told her story, with diary extracts, in Sarah's Diary published by Virgin. You can read some extracts in this article by Sarah Griffin in The Guardian.....

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Tradional Irish family household in decline as cohabiting increases, census shows

Fewer than one in five households in Dublin City are now made up of the traditional family of husband, wife and children, a new report from the Central Statistics Office reveals. (Download the report here).

The information is contained in Census 2006 Volume 3 - Household Composition, Family Units and Fertility, which gives further detailed results of the census conducted on 23 April 2006.

The report shows that there were 477,705 households composed of the traditional family in the State in 2006, an increase of only 3.3 per cent since 2002. The number of these traditional households declined in all the main cities between 2002 and 2006.

The report also reveals that there was a continued increase in the number of one-person households – up 51,877 or 18.7 per cent since 2002. One-person households, which accounted for 22.4 per cent of all households in the State in 2006, were the predominant household type in all five cities.

Nearly 56 per cent of one-person households were occupied by single (never-married) persons; a further 26.7 per cent by widowed persons; 14.4 per cent by separated (including divorced) persons and 3 per cent by those describing their marital status as married. Persons aged 65 years and over were the occupants of 36.8 per cent of the one-person households in 2006 – down from 41.0 per cent in 2002.

The total number of cohabiting couples was 121,800 in 2006 up from 77,600 in 2002 – by far the fastest growing type of family unit. Cohabiting couples represented 11.6 per cent of all family units in 2006 compared with 8.4 per cent in 2002. Almost two thirds of them were couples without children.

Overall the number of “children” living with one or both parents increased by 1.1 per cent from 1,470,800 in 2002 to 1,486,431 in 2006. However, the number of “children” in their twenties living with their parents actually fell from 304,353 to 280,065 over the same period, while “children” in their thirties still living at home also fell from 70,707 to 65,693.

Males continue to account for nearly two-thirds of persons in their thirties living with their parents.

Friday, June 1, 2007

French women like the light touch

A good-looking man approached 120 women in a French night club over a period of three weeks, and asked them to dance, says this report in the British Psychological Society Research Digest blog. It was in the name of science – the man was an assistant to the psychologist Nicolas Guegen. Remarkably, of the 60 women who he touched lightly on the arm, 65 per cent agreed to a dance, compared with just 43 per cent of the 60 women who he asked without making any physical contact.

A second study involved three male research assistants approaching 240 women in the street and asking them for their phone numbers, the report says. Among those 120 women who the researchers touched lightly on the arm, 19 per cent agreed to share their number, compared with 10 per cent of the women with whom no physical contact was made.

Hmmm, I wouldn't try this everywhere folks - depending on local cultural norms, the bed you wind up in just might be in a hospital or a cell.....