Can we Research the Private Sphere?

Methodological and Ethical Problems in the Study of the Role of Intimate Emotion in Personal Relationships
  • Jean Duncombe
  • Dennis Marsden
Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


In the classic discussion from which this conference took its title, C. Wright Mills (1959) argued that the sociological imagination works on the distinction between ‘the personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’, giving as one of his examples marriage. Our paper takes up this theme, describing some of the sociological, methodological, philosophical and ethical problems raised by research including our own (Duncombe and Marsden, 1993a, 1993b, 1995a, 1995b) on intimate couple relationships. Our research is in line with the recent theoretical shifts which have focused attention on the nature of interpersonal relationships in contemporary society and have emphasised the need for a greater understanding of the interconnections between the ‘public’ and the ‘private’ spheres of social life. There is a new urgency in attempting to research intimate personal experience, in order to resuscitate and re-theorise areas such as changing family bonds and other newer forms of close relationships (Morgan, 1985, 1990; Clark and Haldane, 1990) but also as an essential contribution to broader theories of society (Cheal, 1991; Giddens, 1991, 1992).


Ethical Problem Gender Relation Couple Relationship Private Sphere Feminist Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© British Sociological Association 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean Duncombe
  • Dennis Marsden

There are no affiliations available

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