Thinking Sociologically about Personal Relationships.

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Rebecca G. Adams, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: When my associate editors and I were discussing who would be our team’s second distinguished scholar, psychologist Susan Boon suggested Graham Allan, pointing out that he thinks “in bigger circles” than most personal relationship scholars and therefore has something special to contribute to the field. As one of Allan’s collaborators, I can certainly corroborate Boon’s observation. Of course, though uncommon among researchers who identify themselves as “personal relationship scholars,” Allan’s practice of contextualizing personal relationships is not unique. Most sociologists, including me, agree that the structural and cultural contexts in which relationships are embedded influence their structure and the processes that take place within them. It is fairly common, for example, for sociologists to study how the opportunities or constraints facing people occupying various social structural positions shape the relationships they form and maintain (e.g., the effects of individual characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, social class, and age on relationship outcomes) and also how the relationships embedded in different immediate social and cultural environments vary (e.g., subcultures, neighborhoods, and organizations). Allan thinks in even larger circles than many sociologists, however, and certainly in larger circles than most of the few other sociologists who are involved in the International Association for Relationship Research. Rather than focusing on how individual characteristics and immediate environments affect personal relationships, he is concerned with the effects of much broader social and cultural characteristics and trends, such as privatization, inequality, and, as he discusses in his contribution to this issue, increasing flexibility in the normative expectations regarding family and friend relationships. His contribution to the field of relationship science is unique because he is simultaneously interested in the characteristics of the larger contexts surrounding personal relationships, those contexts most remote from the individuals involved, and in the details of how people “do” family and friendship. Most sociologists interested in the former are not interested in the latter and vice versa.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2008
sociology, psychology, personal relationships, sociology research, journal editing

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