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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Boyce was involved with the study de, implementation, analysis, and writing of the article. Tellez were involved with the study de, recruitment of participants, data collection, analysis, and review of the article.
Barrington was involved with the study de, analysis, and writing of the article. Gender inequity negatively affects health in Central America. By understanding and taking of these different narratives and normalized beliefs in developing health- and gender-based violence interventions, such programs might be more effective in promoting gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among young men and women in Nicaragua. The Theory of Gender and Power TGP is a social structural theory that describes how gender is used as a basis for constructing power imbalances between men and women that constrain most aspects of their lives.
The TGP is also used to propose opportunities for intervention, which reinforces the idea that shifts in gender norms allowing for greater equity are possible. Little is known about how Nicaraguan men and women themselves conceptualize the relationship between shifting gender norms and health, an integral aspect of developing effective health interventions. An internationally respected research institute served as a local study partner. We recruited Nicaraguan young adults aged 18—30 yearsmarried or cohabitating with their current partner for 1 to 4 years, for interviews and focus groups, because they represent a subgroup of the population that likely has been exposed to a variety of modern and traditional gender norms and may still be establishing roles in their relationships.
Nicaraguan couples in long-term, committed relationships cohabitate almost as often as they legally marry To ensure confidentiality, we did not recruit any participants who were currently in relationships with other participants. We collected data between June and November The first and second interviews were conducted within 2 weeks of each other. The interviews, which were conducted in Spanish, lasted 45 to 90 minutes and were audio-recorded.
The semistructured interview instruments were developed, piloted with the target population, and revised as needed by the research team. After each interview, interviewers wrote and discussed reflective field notes.
All women participants received referral information for local domestic violence and sexual assault services. Following completion of the interviews, the same individuals who conducted the interviews facilitated a series of 12 focus groups to further explore themes that emerged from the interviews.
The research team developed discussion topics and focus group guides based on emergent themes that needed further clarification and were iteratively shaped by the group discussion. Engaging the same interview participants in the focus groups increased the richness of the data as it often provided opportunities to hear a participant tell the same story twice and explore differences in how stories were told between data collection settings.
Focus groups lasted 2 hours each and were audio-recorded and facilitated by the same interviewers. The first author observed the focus groups with men. Participants and all individuals captured in photos provided a ed release for the research team to publish the photos. Audio recordings of interviews and focus groups were transcribed by native Spanish speakers.
The first author, involved in the study from start to finish, analyzed the data in Spanish, verifying interpretations with the study team to ensure that they resonated with their understanding of the data and local culture. After multiple readings, she defined topical and emergent codes and applied them to the data using the qualitative software ATLAS.
The research team compared code outputs between and within gender groups using thematic matrices, scatter plots, and analytic memos. Although we did not de the study to focus on these themes, jealousy and a double standard regarding infidelity inductively emerged from the data as a narrative through which participants described the impact of gender norms on health.
After describing the study participants, we explore the way gender inequity was narrated by participants through expectations and experiences of infidelity and jealousy, and compare these across gender. We then describe how participants related their gendered experiences of jealousy to health. Interview participants were primarily in their early 20s, were living with extended family, and had 1 child Table 1. About half were cohabitating but not legally married. Generally, men had some postsecondary education and formal employment whereas women did not, and most participants had limited income.
Three men and 2 women were studying at the university. A gender-based double standard around the social acceptability of infidelity emerged as a salient concept through which participants understood and expressed gender inequity. Men and women unanimously reported this gendered double standard of infidelity, framed clearly by 1 participant, a year-old woman who had completed secondary school:. The gravity of the consequences for female infidelity contrasted starkly with the light regard for male infidelity that she described.
Jealousy was common; it was indicated as the primary source of marital conflict for 10 women and 5 men and was widely considered an inevitable part of a romantic relationship. Although some expressions of jealousy were common regardless of gender e. The experience of jealousy was understood differently across participants. Both men and women focus group participants said that without jealousy there was no love. One man explained this concept further:.
If she goes out with some person, she can do what she wants with her life. But if I had feelings for her, it will affect me. Women commented that they often interpreted male jealousy as an expression of love, feeling that it was one of the few s that their husbands cared about them.
In the context of gender inequity and social acceptance of male infidelity, women reported feeling that they had little power to influence their husbands to remain faithful; 5 men and 5 women, without prompting, admitted that the husband had been unfaithful to his wife. Interestingly, no participants reported that the wife had been unfaithful, leaving it unclear with whom unfaithful husbands were having affairs. Most women therefore reported trying to sound casual when they asked their husbands about their whereabouts, avoiding sounding suspicious.
Others learned to swallow their concerns about infidelity; as 1 woman in a focus group described it:. I fought a lot with him, about jealousy. It killed me inside.
Reed, she described emotionally suffering in silence, knowing there was nothing she could do to deter him. Missing from her narrative, but essential to understanding her situation, are the social and economic costs of leaving him. In contrast with the others, 2 wives reported that their husbands complied with their controlling jealous behavior. For example, after catching her husband exchanging text messages with a former girlfriend about their continued feelings for one another, 1 woman asked her husband to exchange cell phones with her so she could monitor who contacted him, which she said he did, albeit unwillingly.
As a women, well. If I do everything right, I iron his clothes, wash them, I serve him, I cook, give him food, clean, everything. If I serve him in bed the same way, am with him, and do the same as her. This participant captured the internalized belief that, despite the cultural expectation of male infidelity, she has failed as a woman if she does not satisfy her husband enough to prevent his infidelity. In this context of severe social sanctioning of female infidelity, husbands, unlike wives, received social power to control female sexuality.
Ten women and 9 men described controlling husbands who were quick to punish wives if they even slightly threatened the expectation of female fidelity. One year-old woman, a university graduate, reported on how she was chided for coming home late from work:. Well in my case. Unlike men, most women described giving up their friendships before they began cohabitating to communicate the level of their commitment to their partner. Such compliance resulted in the social isolation of wives, described by almost all participants. One year-old man with some university education reported telling his wife:.
I am just about to finish my degree. Whether such an economic threat was explicit or implicit, it helped elucidate why wives relinquish their social autonomy to keep their husbands happy. Exemplifying the gender gap in power behind controlling jealousy, 1 man and 1 woman shared similar stories about their partners lying to them about going to a party.
The man caught his wife dancing with his female cousins at a party. The woman caught her husband coordinating to meet up with a former girlfriend at a party. Both participants reprimanded their partners, the man with physical abuse and almost complete restriction on her recreational activity even 2 years after the incident and the woman with words and a loss of trust, yet little change in his behavior. One year-old woman, who received instruction on gender equality in school and was studying to become a lawyer, a marker of her relatively higher socioeconomic status, stood in contrast to the rest.
These gender differences in experiences of infidelity norms and jealousy were narrated as impactful on health. Seven women and 5 men reported that the wife experienced unwanted or forced sex with her husband. Although not acknowledging the context of imbalanced social and economic power, women described motivations for complying with unwanted sex in 2 ways: to prevent accusations of her infidelity and to prevent his infidelity.
Three women and 5 men explicitly said in the interviews that the wife regularly had sex when she did not want to, to prevent suspicions of her infidelity. If a woman, sexually speaking, has a lover and with the lover. One year-old woman interviewee, a university graduate, explained why she had unwanted sex many times with her husband:. They described feeling obligated to have sex and do sexual acts they did not want to do just so they would not lose their husbands to another woman.
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Gender-Specific Jealousy and Infidelity Norms as Sources of Sexual Health Risk and Violence Among Young Coupled Nicaraguans