Sex Roles

, Volume 73, Issue 3–4, pp 93–99 | Cite as

Feminist Theory and Research on Family Relationships: Pluralism and Complexity

  • Katherine R. AllenEmail author
  • Ana L. Jaramillo-Sierra
Original Article


Feminist perspectives on family relationships begin with the critique of the idealized template of the White, middle class, heterosexually married couple and their dependent children. Feminist scholars take family diversity and complexity as their starting point, by emphasizing how power infuses all of family relationships, from the local to the global scale. As the main location for caring and productive labor, families are the primary unit for providing gendered socialization and distributing power across the generations. In this issue and two subsequent issues of Sex Roles, we have collected theoretical and empirical articles that include critical analyses, case studies, quantitative studies, and qualitative studies that focus on a wide array of substantive topics in the examination of families. These topics include variations in marital and intimate partnerships and dissolution; motherhood and fatherhood in relation to ideology and practice; intergenerational parent–child relationships and socialization practices; and paid and unpaid labor. All of the articles across the three issues are guided by a type of feminist theory (e.g., gender theory; intersectional theory; Black feminist theory; globalization theory; queer theory) and many incorporate multiple theoretical perspectives, including mainstream social and behavioral science theories. Another feature of the collection is the authors’ insistence on conducting research that makes a difference in the lives of the individuals and families they study, thereby generating a wealth of practical strategies for relevant future research and empowering social change. In this introduction, we specifically address the first six articles in the special collection on feminist perspectives on family relationships.


Families Family relationships Feminist research Feminist theory Intersectionality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

This article complies with ethical standards of the American Psychological Association.

The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, or publication of this article.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, or publication of this article.


  1. Acker, J., Barry, K., & Esseveld, J. (1983). Objectivity and truth: Problems in doing feminist research. Women’s Studies International Forum, 6, 423–435. doi: 10.1016/0277-5395(83)90035-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, K. R. (2000). A conscious and inclusive family studies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 4–17. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00004.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen, K. R., Walker, A. J., & McCann, B. R. (2013). Feminism and families. In G. W. Peterson & K. R. Bush (Eds.), Handbook of marriage and the family (3rd ed., pp. 139–158). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allen, K. R., Lloyd, S. A., & Few, A. L. (2009). Reclaiming feminist theory, methods, and practice for family studies. In S. A. Lloyd, A. L. Few, & K. R. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of feminist family studies (pp. 3–17). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baber, K. M. (2004). Building bridges: Feminist research, theory, and practice: A response to Janet Saltzman Chafetz. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 978–983. doi: 10.1177/0192513x04267100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baber, K. M., & Allen, K. R. (1992). Women & families: Feminist reconstructions. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  7. Bjork-James, S. (2015). Feminist ethnography in cyberspace: Imagining families in the cloud. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-015-0507-8.
  8. Chafetz, J. S. (2004). Bridging feminist theory and research methodology. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 963–977. doi: 10.1177/0192513x04267098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Boston: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  10. Coontz, S. (2015). Revolution in intimate life and relationships. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 7, 5–12. doi: 10.1111/jftr.12061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crawford, M., & Kimmel, E. (1999). Promoting methodological diversity in feminist research. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 1–6. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1999.tb00337.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Curran, M. A., McDaniel, B. T., Pollitt, A. M., & Totenhagen, C. J. (2015). Gender, emotion work, and relationship quality: A daily diary study. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-015-0495-8.
  13. De Reus, L., Few, A. L., & Blume, L. B. (2005). Multicultural and critical race feminisms: Theorizing families in the third wave. In V. L. Bengtson, A. C. Acock, K. R. Allen, P. Dilworth-Anderson, & D. M. Klein (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theory and research (pp. 447–468). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dill, B. T., McLaughlin, A. E., & Nieves, A. D. (2007). Future directions of feminist research: Intersectionality. In S. N. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research: Theory and praxis (pp. 629–637). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. England, P. (2010). The gender revolution: Uneven and stalled. Gender and Society, 24, 149–166. doi: 10.1177/0891243210361475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ferree, M. M. (1990). Beyond separate spheres: Feminism and family research. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52, 866–884. doi: 10.2307/353307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ferree, M. M. (2010). Filling the glass: Gender perspectives on families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 420–439. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2010.00711.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Few, A. L. (2007). Integrating black consciousness and critical race feminism into family studies research. Journal of Family Issues, 28, 452–473. doi: 10.1177/0192513X06297330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Few-Demo, A. L. (2014). Intersectionality as the “new” critical approach in feminist family studies: Evolving racial/ethnic feminisms and critical race theories. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 6, 169–183. doi: 10.1111/jftr.12039.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Few-Demo, A. L., Lloyd, S. A., & Allen, K. R. (2014). It’s all about power: Integrating feminist family studies and family communication. Journal of Family Communication, 14, 85–94. doi: 10.1080/15267431.2013.864295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Freedman, E. B. (2002). No turning back: The history of feminism and the future of women. New York: Ballantine.Google Scholar
  22. Fulcher, M., Dinella, L. M., & Weisgram, E. S. (2015). Constructing a feminist reorganization of the heterosexual breadwinner/caregiver family model: College students’ plans for their own future families. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-015-0487-8.
  23. Gergen, M. (2001). Feminist reconstructions in psychology: Narrative, gender, and performance. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Goldberg, A. E., & Allen, K. R. (2015). Communicating qualitative research: Some practical guideposts for scholars. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 3–22. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goldberg, A. E., Moyer, A. M., Black, K., & Henry, A. (2014). Lesbian and heterosexual adoptive mothers’ experiences of relationship dissolution. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-014-0432-2.
  26. Harding, S. (1998). Is science multicultural?: Postcolonialisms, feminisms, and epistemologies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Hermann, A. C., & Stewart, A. J. (Eds.). (1994). Theorizing feminism: Parallel trends in the humanities and social sciences. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  28. Hesse-Biber, S. N., & Piatelli, D. (2007). Holistic reflexivity: The feminist practice of reflexivity. In S. N. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research: Theory and praxis (pp. 493–514). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Jacobs, J., & Gerson, K. (2004). The time divide: Work, family, and gender inequality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Krieger, S. (1996). The family silver: Essays on relationships among women. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  31. Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Mahalingam, R., Balan, S., & Molina, K. M. (2009). Transnational intersectionality: A critical framework for theorizing motherhood. In S. A. Lloyd, A. L. Few, & K. R. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of feminist family studies (pp. 69–80). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mahler, S. J., Chaudhuri, M., & Patil, V. (2015). Scaling intersectionality: Advancing feminist analysis of transnational families. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/211199-015-0506-9.
  34. McCall, L. (2005). The complexity of intersectionality. Signs, 30, 1771–1800. doi: 10.1086/426800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Osmond, M. W., & Thorne, B. (1993). Feminist theories: The social construction of gender in families. In V. L. Bengtson, A. C. Acock, K. R. Allen, P. Dilworth-Anderson, & D. M. Klein (Eds.), Sourcebook of family theory and research (pp. 591–623). Thousand Oaks: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Patil, V. (2013). From patriarchy to intersectionality: A transnational feminist assessment of how far we’ve really come. Signs, 38, 847–867. doi: 10.1086/669560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Risman, B. J. (2004). Gender as a social structure: Theory wrestling with activism. Gender and Society, 18, 429–450. doi: 10.1177/0891243204265349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shields, S. A. (2010). Gender: An intersectionality perspective. Sex Roles, 59, 301–311. doi: 10.1007/s11199-008-9501-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, D. E. (1987). The everyday world as problematic: A feminist sociology. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Smith, D. E. (1993). The Standard North American Family: SNAF as an ideological code. Journal of Family Issues, 14, 50–65. doi: 10.1177/0192513x93014001005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sprague, J. (2005). Feminist methodologies for critical researchers: Bridging differences. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  42. Stanley, L. (1990). Feminist praxis and the academic mode of production: An editorial introduction. In L. Stanley (Ed.), Feminist praxis: Research, theory and epistemology in feminist sociology (pp. 3–19). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Tasker, F., & Delvoye, M. (2015). Moving out of the shadows: Accomplishing bisexual motherhood. Sex Roles. doi: 10.1007/s11199-015-0503-z.
  44. Thompson, L., & Walker, A. J. (1995). The place of feminism in family studies. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 57, 847–865. doi: 10.2307/353407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Thorne, B. (1982). Feminist rethinking of the family: An overview. In B. Thorne & M. Yalom (Eds.), Rethinking the family: Some feminist questions (pp. 1–24). New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  46. Tronto, J. (2006). Moral perspectives: Gender, ethnics, and political theory. In K. Davis, M. Evans, & J. Lorber (Eds.), Handbook of gender and women’s studies (pp. 417–434). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Walker, A. J. (1999). Gender and family relationships. In M. Sussman, S. K. Steinmetz, & G. W. Peterson (Eds.), Handbook of marriage and the family (2nd ed., pp. 439–474). New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Walker, A. J. (2000). Refracted knowledge: Viewing families through the prism of social science. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 595–608. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00595.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Walker, A. J. (2009). A feminist critique of family studies. In S. A. Lloyd, A. L. Few, & K. R. Allen (Eds.), Handbook of feminist family studies (pp. 19–27). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  50. Wills, J., & Risman, B. (2006). The visibility of feminist thought in family studies. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 690–700. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2006.00283.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wise, S., & Stanley, L. (2006). Having it all: Feminist fractured foundationalism. In K. Davis, M. Evans, & J. Lorber (Eds.), Handbook of gender and women’s studies (pp. 435–456). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yllo, K., & Bograd, M. (Eds.). (1988). Feminist perspectives on wife abuse. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human DevelopmentVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Departamento de PsicologíaUniversidad de Los AndesBogotaColombia

Personalised recommendations