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Identity and Repartnering After Separation

Lampard, Richard and Peggs, Kay
Palgrave Publishing, Basingstoke
1403939349 (pb)

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Cover of book This timely and detailed analysis explores the changing structure of intimate personal relationships, and highlights significant changes to intimacy and couple relationships in the late twentieth century. The work includes a discussion of the historical context of couple relationships, changing trends in co-habitation, divorce, re-marriage, and new relationship formations e.g. living apart together (LAT).

A range of issues and themes are examined through the use of both new qualitative research and secondary analysis of existing quantitative data. The findings are set within a broader theoretical and conceptual framework to facilitate an examination at both the macro and micro levels. The style and approach of the work, together with the detailed explanation and analysis, suggests that the text is aimed at an academic readership. Both the scope and content of the work makes this relevant for those working and researching within the area of the family and social change.

'Identity and Repartnering after Separation' begins with an introduction to, and detailed overview of, the content and structure of the work. A comprehensive discussion of the research project, the sample, and the approach used in the analysis of the data follows. An insight into the historical context of this aspect of intimate relationships is given together with theoretical and conceptual frameworks. A thorough examination of the data used is provided together with a discussion of the quantitative analysis, which is then linked to previous research in order to contextualise the work.

An examination of repartnering behaviour and orientations at the individual level is examined using the themes of risk, emotions, choice and the continuance of traditional ideas such as the 'natural' approach to repartnering versus self-advertising (p.214) within contemporary society. Moreover, a focus on the concepts of identity and intimacy within contemporary society serves to relate individual experience and behaviour both to the data and ultimately to wider social change. Finally, the work draws together ideas and results from earlier discussions using key themes, and provides key features of formerly partnered people's lives, their views on repartnering, and repartnering behaviour.

The primary research includes in-depth, qualitative interviews of a sample of formerly married people and former co-habitees. This qualitative approach is set in the broader context through the secondary analysis of previous work in this area. There is an in-depth discussion of the methodological issues within both the sample for the in-depth interviews, and of the available data for secondary analysis.

Whilst aspects of the North American experience in the areas of cohabitation, marriage and repartnering is salient here, the inclusion of data for analysis from a different cultural context to the U.K. needs to be considered. It is also worth noting that some of the statistical data used for secondary analysis is now over ten years old (p.vii), although this was due to the type and availability of relevant data in some aspects of the study.

As Lampard and Peggs acknowledge, the interview sample includes only one non-heterosexual interviewee and one non-white individual. There is therefore no examination of same-sex relationships, either as a separate category or for those repartnering into a same-sex relationship from a former heterosexual union. Moreover, as the rate of co-habitation is likely to vary between different ethnic groups, as is the rate of lone parenthood, the impact of this needs to be considered, particularly in relation to specific regions of the U.K. such as some inner London boroughs. Information on the religious affiliations of the interview sample, and of those drawn from the secondary analysis, would have been illuminating within a discussion of the marriage, cohabitation and repartnering propensities of individuals.

This work highlights the complex psychological processes of the lived experience using the concepts of 'agency', 'biographies of self', and 'identity', taking place within the individual. These are then related to the broader sociological changes that are reflected in the data on marriage, divorce, cohabitation, and repartnering and other forms of intimate relationships in our lives. Furthermore, theoretical and conceptual frameworks such as 'modernity', 'individualism', 'decline of tradition', and 'freedom of choice' are used in the broader analysis of such changes. It therefore provides not only an insight into the individual experience of marriage, separation, divorce and repartnering but also wider social change at the structural level.

Christina Lancucki
University College Birmingham (UCB), UK

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