Ira Virtanen

Ira Virtanen

  • Tampere University
  • Department of Speech Communication and Voice Research
Participant in 2007

Phd Projects


Meanings and Means of Males’ Supportive Communication: The Provision of Comforting Messages to Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Friends

This study scrutinises the process of supportive communication behaviour in Finland. Family violence, divorce and custody battles, unemployment, high demands of work life, poor health and depression are unfortunate but familiar hardships of modern (Finnish) society. Problems are often dealt with on one’s own, and men particularly do not always turn to someone to be comforted (Virtanen, 2005). Men are also more reluctant to show emotions and acknowledge others’ emotional states, especially those of other males (Jakupcak, Salters, Gratz and Roemer, 2003). Indisputably, support-seeking and -giving creates a challenge for one’s self-image and gender identity. This study aims to describe and understand the presence of different accounts in supportive interaction in a Finnish socio-cultural context. Supportive communication research is essential in detecting norms, values and behaviour related to emotionally upsetting issues in life. Research is also necessary for the development of training and education of effective comforting. Present-day research confirms that discussing the challenges of life, and similarly, receiving support in interaction with people that are close, increases the individuals’ capability to cope with problems (Albrecht, Burleson, and Goldsmith, 1994; Cunningham and Barbee, 2000), enhances persons’ positive self-image and life satisfaction (Sarason, Sarason and Pierce, 1994), and even improves their physical health (Burleson and MacGeorge, 2002). Lack of supportiveness, on the other hand, affects the creation and maintenance of relationships, which are essential to the emotional well-being of individuals. The study focuses on emotionally distressful topics in Finland today, and it is conducted by both a qualitative method (semi-structured interviews (n = 20)), and a quantitative method (questionnaires (n = 500)). The study examines and compares males’ provision of comforting messages to male and female friends. The focus is on the influence of gender norms, contextual factors such as target sex, and perceived target responsibility on the types of comforting messages provided by men. The participants measure the perceived target responsibility in various distressing scenarios, and act as support providers to the distressed other. The variable used to increase the target responsibility is alcohol consumption. The results will be used to support the theory development of supportive communication research, in educational and training purposes of counselling services and schooling, and in the creation of self-empowerment education through daily interaction and technology to enhance the well-being of Finnish people. In addition to the contribution to communication theory and training, the results will increase our understanding of the cultural perceptions of gender, emotions, cultural norms, social penetration, and alcohol discourse

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