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Benefits of and Barriers to Romantic Relationships Among Mothers in Ireland


Family Relations / Family Relations Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies

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Objective To examine what mothers expect of their romantic relationships and what prevents them from forming and maintaining relationships. Background Although there has been research on mothers' attitudes toward and expectations of marriage, there has been limited examination of their dating. It is critical to understand why parents form romantic relationships and what might cause them to cycle in and out of relationships to understand stepfamily formation. Method On the basis of semistructured interviews with a convenience sample of 33 single or repartnered Irish mothers, we conducted a thematic analysis guided by a social exchange framework. Results Mothers believed that being in a relationship would enable them to enact their preferred relationship roles, give them extra support, and provide a different gender role model for their child(ren). They found forming long‐term relationships difficult because of a lack of suitable partners, limited time and support, stepparents' possible negative influences on their child(ren), and their own personal characteristics. Unlike previous studies conducted in the United States, Irish mothers were not focused on the economic viability of partners or on economic benefits associated with repartnering. Conclusions Mothers believe that there are several rewards to forming and being in a relationship, but they face many impediments that may prevent them from forming long‐term relationships. Implications Practitioners may find it useful to focus on tempering mothers' expectations of relationship benefits and on reducing mothers' personal costs when forming and maintaining relationships.