Book Reviews -- Gender, Families and Close Relationships: Feminist Research Journeys Edited by Donna L. Sollie and Leigh A. Leslie

Article excerpt

DONNA L. SOLLIE and LEIGH A. LESLIE (Eds). Gender, Families and Close Relationships: Feminist Research Journeys. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1994. 300 pages. $20.95.

Over the past two decades, feminist research methodologies and theoretical perspectives have been used in the study of interpersonal relationships and in family studies. However, studies that reflect a feminist perspective have been slow to emerge in the general literature of these fields. This new collection on interpersonal and family relationships, edited by Donna L. Sollie and Leigh A. Leslie, makes a worthy contribution to our understanding of the strengths and challenges of feminist research methodology.

In their introductory chapter, Leslie and Sollie offer an excellent overview of the basic tenets of feminist theory, research methodology, and ethics as applied to the study of family and interpersonal relationships. They provide a solid introduction to the heterogeneity of perspectives and approaches that have developed under the umbrella of feminism.

Leslie and Sollie present a series of questions that frame the issues facing feminist researchers:

Just what does it mean to be a feminist researcher studying relationships and families? How should our commitment to improve the status of women shape our empirical work? Can one be both a feminist and an empiricist? Must we discard all of the lessons learned as graduate students and beginning scholars and start over? Are there guidelines or models that would facilitate our evolution as feminist researchers? And perhaps most dauntingly, what is the ultimate standard by which we can determine whether our work as feminists and family scholars is "good enough"? (p.2)

The chapters in this collection address these issues while demonstrating the practical application of feminist methodologies. The volume is divided into three major sections: Part 1, "Intimacy in Close Relationships," includes chapters on love, sexuality, parent/child relationships, lifestyle choices, and friendship relationships; Part 2, "The Role of Work in Close Relationships," addresses issues of workplace relationships, division of labor in the family, and the work roles of women of color; and Part 3, "The Experience of Violence in Close Relationships," looks at the role of feminism in the study of family violence as well as women's use of aggression in interpersonal relationships.

Most of the chapters do not focus on a single study; instead, they trace an individual scholar's research journey across several studies. While the technique of presenting multiple research studies could result in a lack of focus, the authors of the individual chapters in this volume have skillfully woven their research histories into a presentation that gives the reader greater insight into the research topic and the research process.

In her chapter "Men and Women in Love," Letitia Anne Peplau begins by presenting her early studies of heterosexual dating couples and proceeds to discuss the influence of her earlier work on subsequent studies of gay and lesbian couples. The authors use their previous research to demonstrate their personal development as feminist researchers, and this process allows them to present candid and often self-critical analyses of their earlier work.

In a critique of her earlier qualitative study of lifelong single women, Katherine Allen notes that "Looking back, I realize that I silenced my respondents by not taking a more proactive approach and asking about their sexual histories as an important aspect of life experience" (p. …