There have been volumes written about human relationships over the years, and many more could be written! The close connection that exists between relationships and health is not always acknowledged explicitly, but that connection is always there in one form or another. People seek and hope for relationships that provide a host of benefits related to health in a wholistic sense—happiness, comfort, self-affirmation, love, nurturing, and safety. Communities and groups establish all sorts of formal, informal, professional, and lay organizations and structures that provide human interaction and relationship.
Given the universal interest and investment in human relationships, and given the nature of nursing itself as a relational discipline, it is only fitting that nurse scholars make the matter of relationships and health a focus of their inquiry. Yet, as Gweneth Hartric-Doane points out in her Guest Editorial for this issue, nursing's theoretical and philosophic frameworks, most of which have arisen from western or westernized regions of the world, have sustained a primary concern with the health of individuals as a central concern, consistent with a larger Western neoliberal, individualistic perspective. The logical reasoning of much of our understandings of health leads down a path that focuses on individuals, with an underlying assumption that in the end, individuals alone are responsible for their health and well-being.
However, nursing's philosophic foundation and commitment to wholism has prompted nurse scholars to acknowledge and even integrate relational concerns, and the focus of the discipline as caring in the human health experience1,2 has brought about an emphasis on the nature of the professional caring relationship in nursing. Given our disciplinary perspectives, it follows that nurse scholars would take seriously the matter of human relationships, and how these relationships can be shaped and formed in the human health experience to promote wellness not only for the individuals as individuals but also for the social units in which they relate. People in our world today need healthy families, however they are experienced or defined, healthy organizational structures in which to work, and healthy social contexts for rest, relaxation, and restoration.
I believe that the articles in this issue of Advances in Nursing Science (ANS) provide interesting examples of what nurse scholars contribute to the knowledge that is required for creating and sustaining healthy relational contexts. In this issue, you will find several articles that provide a focus on family relationships and the challenges of family life, both traditional and nontraditional. All of the articles in this issue prompt examination of many assumptions about human relationships and challenge preconceived ideas about the experience of relationships—both personal and professional. I hope that you as a reader will not only find this issue interesting and thought-provoking but also join in discussion with these authors about their work. Visit the ANS blog, where each article in this issue will be featured over the coming weeks with a message from the authors, and share your comments and ideas with us on the blog!
—Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN
1. Newman MA, Sime AM, Corcoran-Perry SA. The focus of the discipline of nursing. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 1991;14(1):1–6.
2. Newman MA, Smith MC, Dexheimer-Pharris M, Jones DA. The focus of the discipline revisited. ANS. Adv Nurs Sci. 2008;31(1):E16–E27.