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Marital Separation in Contemporary Ireland

Women’s Experiences

Lucy Hyland

This book is based on detailed interviews with a group of Irish women who have experienced marital separation. It links the women’s accounts with literature on the values and beliefs about marriage, women and family which were prevalent when they were growing up in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s. The book chronicles their young adult years, the early stages of their marriages and the events and processes which led to their separations. It explores the women’s emotional reactions at the time of separating, the types of support which they found beneficial and the personal, social and financial consequences of having separated.
Although the book is written from a sociological perspective, the combination of theory and practical insights make it accessible to a wide variety of readers. It aims to generate discussion and deepen understanding of an area into which there has been minimal research in Ireland and which poses a range of important questions for future researchers, practitioners and policy-makers.
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Chapter 2: Childhood


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This chapter presents the data and discussion on the early years of the women’s lives. It is concerned with beginning to answer the first research question about the influence of being raised in Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s on later experiences of separation. To begin with, the concept of embeddedness, which is the main concept used to analyse the data in this section, will be introduced. Then the data will be presented, mainly in the form of direct quotations from the women. In order not to distract from the flow of the quotations, the discussion piece will be located at the end of the chapter.

Embeddedness is a concept which denotes deep connection. It denotes a phenomenon which permeates key aspects of an individual’s personality and which influences important aspects of their behaviour. Smart (2007) outlines ‘the importance of always putting the individual in the context of their past, their web of relationships, their possessions and their sense of location’ (p. 45). She talks about how family embeddedness can be experienced, on the one hand, as providing ontological security (security about a person’s place in the world) or, on other hand, as being suffocating. In this study, embeddedness relates to the ways in which women are connected to their families of origin and are influenced by the values and attitudes of family members. It relates to the extent to which women are influenced by and embedded...

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