Handbook of Personal Relationships: Theory, Research and Interventions (2Nd Ed.)

Article excerpt

Handbook of Personal Relationships: Theory, Research and Interventions (2nd ed.). Steve Duck (Ed.). Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons. 1997. 857 pp. ISBN 0-471-95913-8. $140.00 cloth.

Steve Duck, Lee West, and Linda Acitelli underscore in the introduction to the Handbook of Personal Relationships the sentiment that "real life relationships . . . happen to real people while. . . researchers are busy making other models" (p. 20). Their main thesis is that a discrepancy exists between real life relationships and relationships depicted in research. To support that contention, they present several criticisms, two of which are emphasized here. They argue that researchers represent relationships too simplistically, and little focus is placed on sociocultural contexts of relationships. Contributors address the thesis by demonstrating how research can represent complexities of relating and relationships, thereby illustrating how the criticism can be overcome or by stressing sociocultural contexts in which relationships exist.

Chapters in Section 1, "Developmental Psychology," demonstrate that the study of relationship learning has moved beyond the dyadic level to the more complex systems level of influence. For example, Ross Parke and Robin O'Neil review research on family subsystems that describe how subsystems influence relationship learning and the processes through which that learning occurs. Maria von Salisch builds on Parke and O'Neil's work by describing how affect regulation is learned through experiencing emotions elicited by others.

Two themes pervade Section 2, "Social Psychology." The first concerns how, within interdependent relationships, motives conflict. converge, and resolve into individual and joint outcomes. This theme is addressed through a data-analytic approach and through the perspectives of two theories-interdependence and self-expansion. The second theme concerns origins of personal dispositions leading to conflicts in relationships and is addressed in chapters covering evolutionary approaches to relationships, adult attachment formation, and interracial ties. For example, Stanley Gaines and William Ickes present the origins of differences between contrasting opinions of interracial relationships by examining such relationships from two perspectives-that of individuals observing them (outsiders) and that of individuals engaging in them (insiders). Gaines and Ickes explain that previous research, capturing only the outsiders' perspective, was incomplete. They argue that outsiders' and insiders' perspectives are needed to understand interracial relationships and that the interaction of these perspectives is important because tensions between the two can affect relationships. Complexities of interracial relationships are made more evident by records of frank conversations among insiders communicating with one another via the Internet. …