9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Biography and Life History Research Building II, C2.01

Intimate Relationships - A Relational View on Couples and their Development

The social transformation processes do not leave intimate relationships unaffected. The biographies of individuals are subject to decision and have to be coordinated with the partner to provide a common life. Additionally events like getting married or having a child have to be arranged in the couple?s biography according to their notions. Against the background of the changing environmental conditions, this paper attempts to illuminate from a methodological point of view how the processes between the partners can be focused to understand the development of couples over the course of time.
The underlying empirical findings stem from a qualitative panel of dual-earner couples collected in Germany between 1999 and 2008. In total eleven couples were interviewed in extensive narrative manner. Each couple was interviewed at three points in time in joint interviews with both partners together and in interviews with each partner separately.
The survey bases on the methodological orientation that the intimate relationship can be seen as a dynamic-interactive connection of two ?significant others? (re-)constructing their own reality. This construction of reality is causing effects in everyday life through interaction and therefore influencing the development of the intimate relationship. This process is analysed from a microsociological perspective by using a relational approach - with respect to intimate relationships as ?realities sui generis?, the couple is more than the sum of its parts - focusing on the partners? perspectives on their development.
For analysing the development of couples and its relational construction, ?objective? biographical events are focused and compared to ?subjective? events which were made a subject of discussion by one or both partners. Furthermore the expected and anticipated trends are compared with the actually perceived development, the thematised causes and consequences of change. By relating (missing) ?objective? biographical events to the ?subjective? perceived development and the meanings the partners attribute, the dynamics in intimate relationships can be figured out, what is - especially in times of social transformation processes - the key to understand the (in)stability of couples.