A Discursive Investigation to Explore Peoples Perception of Singleness

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A discursive investigation to explore people’s perception of attitudes towards singleness since the war


Previous work, for example Wetherell and Reynolds, into this topic are has shown that the socially constructed nature of singleness has polarized interpretative repertories; two are positive as in independence or self-actualisation and negative as in deficit or social exclusion. Research carried out by Edley and Wetherell identified two interpretative repertories; Jekyll or sensible feminists and Hyde or extreme feminists man-hating lesbians. This research is pointed at whether attitudes have changed over time. I found that is has become more socially acceptable and financially viable to be single but some of the attitudes presented after WWII still remains. The method used was one to one interviews which were analysed the discursive approach. The research question posed was designed to draw out the changes in attitudes since 1950’s onwards. Has the attitude of society towards singleness changed since the war? Using discursive psychology I will explore how individuals feel they viewed by peers, parents and others.


There are many different types of close relationships in the modern Western world that are challenging what were seen as traditional families. The focus for much of the research into singleness has conventionally viewed it at as an opposite of family life. Chapter Three ‘Families’ (in Social Psychology Matters) suggests that this may not now be the case and singleness may be yet another social category. This research has taken the view that singleness are women that do not live with a partner. The focus centred around how peers, parents and others view single women since singleness has become a statistically and ideologically more common way of living.

Reynolds and Wetherell argue that singleness is a discursively constructed social category that characterizes the identity of single women through the subject positions and interpretative repertoires. Their research focused on how the social category of singleness is constructed, how methods of categorization work and what the institutional and identity implications of different constructions are. Interviews were carried out covering three broad areas – the images held of singleness and perceived others’ views of themselves past and current relationships, current feelings about their situation and political perspectives held regarding being single. Reynolds and Wetherell argue from feminist psychological perspective of singleness based on critical discursive psychology.

Edley and Wetherell (2001) ‘Jekyll and Hyde: Men’s constructions of feminism and feminists ’ in Feminism & Psychology that feminism, the movement for women, has had both a negative and positive effect on both sexes. Suggesting that power relations for women has been increased, offsetting a reduction for men. Farrell (1994) claims that men are victims and their position is in need of state protection. Baker (1994) suggests that feminism has undermined fathers rights and destabilized the institution of the family leading to further occurrences of singleness. Reynolds and Wetherell (2003) suggest that the socially constructed nature of singleness has polarized interpreted repertoires, on the negative side it has deficits i.e. “left on the shelf” and “old maid” with the positive side as “independent” and “bachelorette”,.

All of the research, as quoted previously, has used the discursive approach because this is better equipped to attempt analysing text, to realise the social impact and the influence on identity of the speaker. Whereas, phenomenological approach describes peoples experiences rather than interpreting them. There are no preconceptions and the interviewer has to be open to the experience. Usually very in depth interviews which this project did not lend its self to.

The social psychoanalytical approach lends itself more to the interactions...
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