Sociology Relationships
Tsui-O Tai
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0100


Social scientists from different disciplines have conducted research on relationships. The list includes psychologists (e.g., social, developmental, clinical, cognitive, counseling), sociologists, anthropologists, and health scientists. Different disciplines employ various approaches to address relationships. For instance, social psychologists seek universal properties in human relations. Sociologists, on the other hand, pay much attention to changes in family ties and social connections and how social structures and contexts (e.g., social class, race, gender, norms, and social policy) impact these relationships. Relationships have been a central research concern in sociology. Sociologists have been particularly interested in studies of intimate relationships, such as marriage and other familial ties. In sociology, social relationships are divided into primary and secondary groups. Primary ties are characterized by direct, personal, and intimate interactions. In addition, primary group members exchange tacit items such as support, love, and concern. Examples of these would be family ties and close friends. Secondary social groups, on the other hand, such as political parties and trade unions, are usually impersonal and instrumental and are formed to fulfill special interests. The recent major sociological themes in research on relationships include the structural changes of relations, inequality and dynamics in relationships, variations over the life course, diversity of relationships, and the connections between individual ties and social context.


Studies of relationships have been very multidisciplinary. The research scope covers sociology, demography, social psychology, clinical psychology, social work, and so on. Some journals are specifically dedicated to studies in conjugal and family relations, such as the Journal of Family Issues and Journal of Marriage and Family. Other journals, including the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and Social Networks, provide more general or interdisciplinary material on social relations and social networks. Many general sociology or demography journals, including Demography, also regularly provide articles on the patterns of family, marriage and other social ties.

  • Demography.

    Demography publishes research on population studies bimonthly. This interdisciplinary journal provides material on several disciplines, including social sciences, geography, history, biology, statistics, epidemiology, and public health.

  • Journal of Family Issues.

    First published in 1980, the Journal of Family Issues is a monthly publication that publishes theory, analyses, and research on marriage and family life. Its interdisciplinary scope encompasses areas such as sociology, gender, psychology, family violence, and social work.

  • Journal of Marriage and Family.

    The Journal of Marriage and Family is a journal of the National Council on Family Relations. It was first published in 1939 as Living, renamed to Marriage and Family Living in 1941, and later changed to its current title in 1964. It provides theoretical and empirical studies and reviews of all aspects of marriage, families, and other close relationships.

  • Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

    Starting in 1984, the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships publishes empirical and theoretical articles on social and personal relationships. Published eight times a year, this multidisciplinary journal covers material from the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology, communication, developmental psychology, and sociology.

  • Social Networks.

    Published quarterly, Social Networks produces both theoretical and substantive papers on the empirical structure of social relations and social networks. It also covers critical reviews of the theories and methods of social network analysis.

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