Gender, Families, and Close Relationships: Feminist Research Journeys


Edited by: Donna L. Sollie & Leigh A. Leslie

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  • Current Issues in the Family Series

    Series Editor

    Timothy H. Brubaker, Miami University

    The pace of change in contemporary society has had an enormous impact on the workings of its most important institution, the family. This series of volumes explores the various dimensions of societal change and how the family is changing with them. Each edited volume contains the latest theory and research from leading scholars in the family field on a topic of contemporary concern. Special attention is paid to the impact of this research on the work being done by family therapists, family life educators, and family policymakers.

    Volumes in this Series

    1. Timothy H. Brubaker (ed.)

    FAMILY RELATIONS: Challenges for the Future

    2. Donna L. Sollie and Leigh A. Leslie (eds.)


    3. Alan J. Hawkins and David C. Dollahite (eds.)

    GENERATIVE FATHERING: Beyond Deficit Perspectives

    Other series volumes are in preparation.


    View Copyright Page


    To our sons, Ethan and Evan


    Through working together on this project, we truly have lived the meaning of the word cooperation. The ease with which we worked together during the last 3 years and shifted the load as needed to be responsive to the demands in each of our lives was a rare experience. It is unfortunate that there is required to be a first and second author designation because this has been a collaborative effort in every sense of the word. Therefore, we determined the ordering of the names by the flip of a coin.

    Despite our rewarding working relationship, the two of us never could have produced this book alone. It is a result of the efforts of many people. Certainly we are appreciative to the contributors for their fine work. The contributions of others, however, are less obvious. A special thanks goes to Trish Barnes, at Auburn University, for her administrative assistance throughout the project; her attention to details made everything run smoothly. We want to thank Mitch Allen, at Sage Publications, for his support of the project and for his guidance through the various stages of book production. Thanks also go to Diana Axelsen and Linda Poderski for their fine editorial work. Very special thanks go to our husbands, Chuck Hill and Fred Curdts, whose support has nourished us for many years.

    We also would like to acknowledge the important role of two groups in our lives. The Feminism and Family Studies Section of the National Council on Family Relations has provided us a professional home in which to integrate our discipline and our feminism. The friends and colleagues from that section have greatly enriched our professional and personal lives. Finally, a debt of gratitude goes to our students—past, present, and future—who challenge us and accompany us on the journey.


    I am honored to write the foreword for this book about feminist research on families and other close relationships. The authors weave together discussion of feminism as social commitment, their personal voices as researchers, the tension between the discipline of family studies and feminism, and research process as feminist practice. This unique book brings these themes together and at long last, provides a context for feminist research and, for many of us, a sense of “coming home.”

    The chapters in this book tell stories of lives and of work in progress. For the authors, both feminism and scholarship are lifelong journeys. All of the authors revise themselves, their feminism, and their research as they go along. The intermingling of commitment, incompleteness, and change makes me feel free. The notion fills me with hope for myself, for my work, and for feminism. I can feel the authors grow stronger as they tell their stories, rethink past work, and move on to the future. As I read the chapter, the authors' accomplishments made me smile. I have known some of the authors for many years. Others are new friends and colleagues; and there are a few whom I do not know but dearly wish I did. When I am discouraged, I will read a chapter or two of this book. The authors give me courage to commit myself anew.

    As a reader, I felt liberated by the lessons in this book. Lesson 1: There are many sources of knowledge. The authors talk about research and scholarship as sources of knowledge, but they also talk about novels, newspapers, students, activists, clinicians, family members, and each other as sources of knowledge. Lesson 2: There is no dogma that we have to follow to justify our feminism. Every feminist can start where she—or he—is. The chapters abound with stories of generous-spirited, caring colleagues who make feminist practice possible. We need to help each other grow, not criticize one another for not being far enough along. Lesson 3: It is dangerous to expect too much of ourselves. Many of the authors note that as hard as we try, it is not possible to live up to the all of the ideals of feminism. It may not be possible, for example, to attend to all diversity, to combat every form of domination, to sustain a truly collaborative research team, and to preserve the full subjectivity of our participants. We must not be discouraged. Feminism should free us, not constrain us.

    Readers can learn much from this book. There is something here for everyone—scholarly ideas, practical considerations, and heartfelt emotions. The authors provide an inviting overview of how feminism has enriched the study of families and close relationships. The ideas set off fireworks in the reader's mind. The authors also chronicle their everyday struggles and successes as academicians and researchers. This knowledge is often hidden from others—details about the demands, doubts, dilemmas, decisions, compromises, and accomplishments that clutter our days as we go about our work. Both feminists and nonfeminists will learn about research process, as an everyday and lifelong endeavor, from the chapters in this book. Finally, the authors tell passionate and powerful stories of how they came to feminism and how feminism informs their work. Each author's voice comes through strong and clear.

    All of the authors in this book were trained, as I was, to be conventional researchers in traditional disciplines. We want to remain part of those disciplines while also doing the feminist work we feel passionate about. Part of learning from each other's practice of research is learning to manage this tension and to work collectively to ensure that our discipline makes a place for us and for our work. This book signifies the coming-of-age of feminism in family studies. Read and savor it.

  • Author Index

    About the Contributors

    Katherine R. Allen is an Associate Professor of Family and Child Development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. She is also a member of the Virginia Tech Women's Studies Advisory Board and teaching faculty. She received her Ph.D. in child and family studies, with a certificate in gerontology, from Syracuse University. She is active in the National Council on Family Relations and is writing a book about marriage and family diversity over the life course. She and her partner, Tamara Stone, are raising their two sons, Matthew and Zachary, in Blacksburg, Virginia.

    Kristine M. Baber is a Professor in the Department of Family Studies at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, and a core faculty member in the Women's Studies Program. She received her Ph.D. in family studies from the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Her research and writing focus on issues related to fertility and reproduction, sexuality education, and the status of women. She is the author of a number of articles on these topics and the coauthor (with Katherine Allen) of Women & Families: Feminist Reconstructions. She and her husband, Bill, spend their leisure time hiking in the White Mountains and exploring the coast of Maine. She also enjoys gardening and reading mystery novels and poetry.

    Rosemary Blieszner is a Professor in the Department of Family and Child Development and Associate Director of the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in human development and family studies. Her research focuses on friend and family relationships and life events in adulthood and old age, with an emphasis on the contributions of close relationships to personal development and psychological well-being. She is coauthor (with Rebecca Adams) of Adult Friendship, coeditor (with Victoria Bedford) of Handbook of Aging and the Family, and has published numerous articles in gerontology, family studies, and social psychology journals. With her husband, Steve Gerus, and children, Suzanne and Mark, she watches the changing tapestry of the seasons as reflected in the surrounding mountains of southwestern Virginia.

    Beth C. Emery is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro. She received her Ph.D. from Oregon State University, Corvallis, in family studies. Her research interests focus on physical and sexual aggression in dating relationships, interpersonal communication, conflict, and feminist methodology. She and her husband, Chuck, enjoy gardening, blues, and jazz.

    Sharon Harley is Director and Associate Professor of the Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her Ph.D. in United States history from Howard University, Washington, DC. She is the coeditor (with Rosalyn Terborg-Penn) of Women in Africa and the African Diaspora and of Afro-American Women: Struggles and Images. Her research focuses on the history of Black wage-earning women and Black women's organizational activities in the District of Columbia. She has received numerous scholarships and fellowships, including the Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Rockefeller Fellowship for Minority Group Scholars. She is a divorced mother raising an 8-year-old daughter with her ex-husband, her twin sister and her co-resident graduate students. She spends her leisure time playing tennis and skiing.

    Leigh A. Leslie is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also an Adjunct Faculty in women's studies. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in individual and family studies. She is a clinical member and approved supervisor of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Her research interests are in the areas of social support, division of labor, and the impact of gender and ethnicity on service delivery. She and her husband, Fred Curdts, find most of their free time consumed by their young son, Evan.

    Sally A. Lloyd is a Professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and Associate Dean of Education and Allied Professions at Miami University, Oxford, OH. Her work has concentrated on the study of conflict and aggression in courtship and marriage. She is the coauthor (with Rodney Cate) of Courtship. Her husband, Andrew, is a chemist, and they have one son, Alexander.

    Stephen R. Marks is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maine, Orono, where he has taught since 1972. He received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1971. He is the author of Three Corners: Exploring Marriage and the Self. His articles have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Journal of Marriage and the Family, and Social Forces. He remains most interested in the relationship between cultural frameworks and optimal human development. He and his wife, Joan, enjoy the Maine coast and cherish visits with their grown sons, Peter and Andrew.

    Letitia Anne Peplau is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. where she has taught since 1973. After receiving her Ph.D. in Social Relations from Harvard University in 1973, she moved to UCLA as an Assistant Professor of Social Psychology. She has been active in the development of UCLA's Women's Studies Program and the Center for the Study of Women. She has coauthored (with Harold Kelley et al.) Close Relationships, (with Shelley Taylor and David Sears) Social Psychology, and (with Zick Rubin and Peter Salovey) Psychology and has coedited (with Dan Perlman) Loneliness. Anne shares her life with husband Steven Gordon, a sociologist, and son David Gordon, a soccer enthusiast.

    Maureen Perry-Jenkins is an Assistant Professor of Family Studies in the Division of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in individual and family studies. Her current research interests focus on the division of labor and the way gender ideology affects the ways women and men assign value to family work and paid employment. She also continually explores these issues in her own family as she struggles to maintain a balance between work, her relationship with her husband Michael, and being a mother to her two sons, Chris and Scott.

    Donna L. Sollie is a Professor in the Department of Family and Child Development at Auburn University, Auburn, AL, and the Director of the Women's Studies Program. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee in family studies. Her research interests focus on the influences of gender on close relationships, transitions during young adulthood, and friendships and social networks. She and her husband, Chuck, delight in sharing their lives with their young son, Ethan.

    Alexis J. Walker is a Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at Oregon State University, Corvallis, where she teaches Applied Research Methods; Gender and Family Relationships; U.S. Families: Gender, Race, and Class; and a writing-intensive, entry-level family studies course for graduate students. She received her Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, University Park, in family studies. She is writing a book about her research on the relationships between aging mothers and their caregiving daughters. Alexis lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner, Cindy Noble, a physician; their cats, Tom and Cora; and an expanding collection of feminist crime novels.

    Kersti Yllö is the Dorothy Reed Williams Chair of Sociology and Department Chair at Wheaton College, Norton, MA. She received her Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire, Durham, and has held Research Fellowships at UNH's Family Violence Research Program and at the Family Development Clinic at Boston Children's Hospital. Her publications on domestic violence include (with David Finkelhor) License to Rape and (with M. Bograd) Feminist Perspectives on Wife Abuse. She also works with her husband, Rich Schwertner, at an alternative school which they started a decade ago. Their son and daughter are grade school students there.

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