World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Significant other

Article Id: WHEBN0000232643
Reproduction Date:

Title: Significant other  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: List of The Tribe characters, Limp Bizkit, Greatest Videoz, Greatest Hitz (Limp Bizkit album), List of Blue Bloods characters
Collection: Interpersonal Relationships, Social Philosophy, Social Psychology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Significant other

Significant other (SO) is colloquially used as a gender-neutral term for a person's partner in an intimate relationship[1] without disclosing or presuming anything about marital status, relationship status, or sexual orientation. Synonyms with similar properties include sweetheart, better half, spouse, domestic partner, lover, soulmate, or life partner.

In the United States the term is sometimes used in invitations, such as to weddings and office parties. This use of the term has become common in the UK in correspondence from hospitals, e.g., "you may be accompanied for your appointment by a significant other".


  • Scientific use 1
  • First use 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Scientific use

Its usage in psychology and sociology is very different from its colloquial use. In psychology, a significant other is any person who has great importance to an individual's life or well-being. In sociology, it describes any person or persons with a strong influence on an individual's self concept. Although the influence of significant others on individuals was long theorized, the first actual measurements of the influence of significant others on individuals were made by Archie O. Haller, Edward L. Fink, and Joseph Woelfel at the University of Wisconsin.[2]

Haller, Fink, and Woelfel are associates of the Wisconsin model of status attainment. They surveyed 100 Wisconsin adolescents, measured their educational and occupational aspirations, and identified the set of other individuals who communicated with the students and served as examples for them. They then contacted the significant others directly and measured their expectations for the adolescent's educational and occupational attainments, and calculated the impact of these expectations on the aspirations of the students. Results of the research showed that the expectations of significant others were the single most potent influences on the students' own aspirations.[3] This usage is synonymous with the term "relevant other" and can also be found in plural form, "significant others".

In social psychology, a significant other is a parent, uncle/aunt, grandparent, or teacher—the person that guides and takes care of a child during primary socialization. The significant other protects, rewards, and punishes the child as a way of aiding the child's development. This usually takes about six or seven years, and after that the significant other is no longer needed, the child moves on to a general other which is not a real person, but an abstract notion of what society deems good or bad.

First use

The first known use of the term is by the U.S. psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan in his work The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, published posthumously in 1953.[4] The phrase was popularised in the United States by Armistead Maupin's 1987 book Significant Others, and in the UK by Derek Trotter's 1989 TV series Only Fools and Horses in which he uses the phrase a number of times when referring to his long-term partner Raquel Turner.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Anon. "Significant other". The Free Dictionary. Farlex Inc. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Haller, A. & Woelfel, J. (1972) Significant others and their expectations: Concepts and instruments to measure interpersonal influence on status aspirations Rural Sociology, 37(4), 591-622 doi:10.1177/0049124190019001006
  3. ^ Woelfel, J. & Haller, A. (1971) Significant others: The self-reflexive act and the attitude formation process American Sociological Review American Sociological Association: 36(1), 74-87
  4. ^   page 9?
  5. ^ Cryer, Max (1 October 2011). Who Said That First?: The Curious Origins of Common Words and Phrases. Summersdale Publishers.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.