Conceptualizations of Family and Identity Among Polyamorous Individuals




Roberts, Lester Leroy IV

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This thesis is an exploration of how polyamorous individuals construct both their families and their own identities in light of their non-traditional approach to relationships. The research draws on ten in-depth interviews with self-identified polyamorists and participant observation of polyamorous communities in the Washington D.C., Northern and Central Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Applying Erving Goffman’s theories about stigma and moral career, these interviews indicate that polyamorous individuals come to hold their identity as polyamorists through moral career paths starting with an openness to non-monogamy influenced by their history with family of origin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs (or the lack thereof), and other subcultural interests, particularly science fiction. Polyamorists come to such an identity as a way to become more moral people in their own view and build families of choice (household, extended and tribe) around them from, mainly, other members of the polyamorous community.



Polyamory, Identity, Non-monogamy, Family, Stigma, Relationships