Research on couples: are feminist approaches useful?

Authors

  • Kathleen Peters,

    1. Kathleen Peters BN PhD RN Lecturer School of Nursing, College of Health and Science, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, NSW, Australia
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  • Debra Jackson,

    1. Debra Jackson PhD RN Professor School of Nursing, College of Health and Science, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, NSW, Australia
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  • Trudy Rudge

    1. Kathleen Peters BN PhD RN Lecturer School of Nursing, College of Health and Science, University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, NSW, Australia
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K. Peters:
e-mail: k.peters@uws.edu.au

Abstract

Title. Research on couples: are feminist approaches useful?

Aim.  This paper is an exploration of the utility and value of feminist approaches when undertaking narrative-based research with partner dyads (within both heterosexual and same sex partnerships) and when researching sensitive issues.

Background.  Adverse life events or conditions experienced by individuals have been found also to have a negative impact on their partners. Most literature addressing partner issues uses quantitative methods, and existing qualitative research on couples has traditionally interviewed only one person in the partnership or coupled partners together. There is little discussion in the literature about the use of feminist research when researching male perspectives and experiences, and even less discussion of the possibilities that feminist research methods bring to the study of couple dyads.

Discussion.  Qualitative methodologies informed by feminist perspectives, including issues of reciprocity and self disclosure, can be used to unpack structural, personal and political issues related to couples’ experiences. A feminist approach allows us to show that the origin of oppression is not personal but very much about power and that men as well as women, regardless of their sexuality, may experience the effects of oppression. Narrative and story-telling complements feminist research because of the value it assigns to the storytellers.

Conclusion.  To care for women effectively, we must also consider the experiences of their partners as the health of one partner has the potential to impact on the other. The concept of oppression is not absent, but indeed is illuminated, in the lives of some men. Gathering stories using feminist perspectives enhances respect and mutuality in the research process.

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