Marriage, children, and the fireman's wife: A qualitative study

Bonneau, Kim
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how a fireman's wife experienced her marriage in terms of marital quality and her perception of parenting. A phenomenological perspective guided the research in order to capture the lived experiences of women married to firefighters (FF). Participants' experiences were viewed through the theoretical lens of family stress theory.

Participants (N=15) were recruited from three different states: five each from Texas, Illinois, and Alaska. Ten of the semi-structured interviews were conducted face-to-face. Those from Alaska were conducted by speaker phone. The interviews were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Each participant was asked to reply to two statements: Tell me about your marriage as the wife of a firefighter. Tell me about your experiences raising children as the wife of a firefighter. Four major themes emerged from the data: 1. Marriage to a firefighter is different, 2. creating support systems, 3. coping with special stressors, and 4. managing anxieties about husband's job-related situations. Wives of firemen managed stressful situations and enhanced marital quality by changing the subjective meaning of the stressor, accepting the role of firefighter's wife with all its attendant concerns, and ascribing positive values to the husband's firefighting career. Wives relied on support systems of family, other FF wives, and the "brotherhood" of firefighters to help with the stress of raising children when husbands were on shift duty.

Selected participant responses to illustrate themes are included in the findings. The research findings were discussed and conclusions were made about the findings. Limitations of the research were noted as well as suggestions for future research. Suggestions for the practice of marital and family therapy for distressed couples in the firefighting community were offered.

Social sciences, Fireman's wife, Marriage, Stress