At the Addiction Research Foundation, we conducted an online survey that was pushed through social media. We at the point where we started noticing that women and men attended self help meetings at a different rate wehad close to 1000 respondents. Of these respondents close to two thirds were women. While women were more likely to respond to an online survey they were less likely to attend 12 step meetings; 61 percent males to 52% females. We looked at what factors would contribute to the difference. One of our theories was women are the traditional care givers of children and would have less flexibility to attend self help meetings in the evening due to childcare issues. We ran a research project where ARF is providing childcare for Refuge Recovery meetings on Wednesday nights at C3. We started the project in November of 2015. A Monday night (control) meeting without childcare and a Wednesday night meeting that provided childcare. We provided consistent childcare for the Wednesday night meeting from October 25, 2015 until December 31, 2018. We consistently advertised this service through a social media campaign. Our hope was that we would see a difference in the attendance for women. We have wondered if knowing that childcare is available that women will feel more supported in general and more likely to attend. Most self help meetings including Refuge Recovery have been designed by men. There is only one know self help meeting that was started by women with a feminist perspective and this is Women for Sobriety. There are very few of these meetings.
We found through this limited experiment was that the childcare made no difference between the attendance of females with the two meetings. Interesting, what did end up happening was that men utilized the childcare services at a far greater rate than the females. Men voiced their support and gratitude that they were able to attend meetings while being a single parent. This result was affirming that the childcare services helped but it did not increase of decrease meeting attendance for either sex. Due to this result we discontinued the service at the end of 2018.
We are working on several other theories concerning female vs male meeting attendance.
There were several additional issues that was discovered during the social media research project that might explain the difference in meeting attendance. Women were more likely than men to be touched by trauma in their lives. 65% of women reported childhood emotional abuse compared to 40% of men. In the survey we found 47% of women reported childhood sexual abuse compared to 19% of men. We also found women were more likely to have been abused as adults also. 75% of women reported being emotionally abused as an adult compared to 35% of men. 36% of women compared to 5% of men reported sexual abuse. We are planning to do additional research to discover if this effects both recovery and meeting attendance.
The last issue regarding women in recovery is related to psychiatric issues of women in recovery. Women were more likely than males to be treated for depression 47%to 29%. Similarly, women were more likely than men to be treated for anxiety 36% to 24%.
Some questions for further research come to mind.
Do women report more psychiatric issues due to trauma related issues?
If this is true, should women and men be treated differently in their efforts for sobriety?
Would the issues surrounding trauma and psychiatric disorders make if more difficult for women to feel comfortable in self help meetings dominated by men?
Are there advantages and disadvantages to same sex self help meetings?