intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Equal Level Of Commitment And Relationship Satisfaction Found Among Gay And Straight Couples

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Same-sex couples are just as committed in their romantic relationships as heterosexual couples, say researchers who have studied the quality of adult relationships and healthy development. Their finding disputes the stereotype that couples in same-sex relationships are not as committed as their heterosexual counterparts and are therefore not as psychologically healthy. From this stereotype was even derrived the demand that same sex couples, if legalized at all, should be distinguished at all price from sacramental opposite-sex relationships.
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These results are from two studies featured in the January issue of Developmental Psychology. Both studies compared same-sex couples with opposite-sex couples on a number of developmental and relationship factors. The first study examined whether committed same-sex couples differ from engaged and married opposite-sex couples in how well they interacted and how satisfied they were with their partners. Evidence has shown that positive interactions improve the quality of relationships in ways that foster healthy adult development.

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign compared 30 committed gay male and 30 committed lesbian couples with 50 engaged heterosexual couples and 40 older married heterosexual couples, as well as with dating heterosexual couples. All the partners responded to a questionnaire that documented how positively they interacted with one another on a day to day basis. The couples were also observed during a laboratory task and were monitored for distress by skin conductance and heart rate.

Results showed that same-sex relationships were similar to those of opposite-sex couples in many ways. All had positive views of their relationships but those in the more committed relationships (gay and straight) resolved conflict better than the heterosexual dating couples. And lesbian couples worked together especially harmoniously during the laboratory tasks.

The notion that committed same-sex relationships are “atypical, psychologically immature, or malevolent contexts of development was not supported by our findings,” said lead author Glenn I. Roisman, PhD. “Compared with married individuals, committed gay males and lesbians were not less satisfied with their relationships.”

Furthermore, said Roisman, “Gay males and lesbians in this study were generally not different from their committed heterosexual counterparts on how well they interacted with one another, although some evidence emerged the lesbian couples were especially effective at resolving conflict.”

In the second study, researchers from the University of Washington, San Diego State University and the University of Vermont wanted to examine how sexual orientation and legal status affected relationship quality. To do so, they followed 65 male and 138 female same-sex couples with civil unions, 23 male and 61 female same-sex couples not in civil unions and 55 heterosexual married couples over a three-year period. One member of each heterosexual couple was a sibling to a member of a civil union couple.

Both partners in all of the couples answered questions regarding their demographics, status of their relationship, number of children, sexual behavior, frequency of contact with their parents with and without their partners and perceived social support. Partners in same-sex relationships also answered questions regarding disclosure of their sexual orientation to their family, peers and work associates.

The researchers found that same-sex couples were similar to heterosexual couples on most relationships variables, and that the legalized status of a relationship did not seem to be the overriding factor affecting same-sex relationships.

Despite the legal status of their relationships, the civil union couples showed no differences on any of the relationship measures from the same-sex couples who were in committed relationships but not in civil unions. “This may be because those couples in Vermont who sought out the legal protection of a civil union might have legalized their relationship more for symbolic value than for commitment reasons, which did not affect their day-to-day interactions,” said lead author Kimberly F. Balsam, PhD.

However, the same sex-couples who were not in civil unions were more likely to have ended their relationships compared to those couples in same-sex civil unions or heterosexual marriages. This suggests that the protections afforded by a legalized relationship may impact same-sex relationships, something the study’s authors plan to follow up on in future research, said Balsam.

The findings also showed that same-sex couples, regardless of civil union status, were more satisfied with their relationships compared to married heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples reported more positive feelings toward their partners and less conflict than heterosexual married couples, said the authors. They theorized that there may be societal pressures and norms, as well as the presence of legal status as a couple, which may contribute to heterosexual couples staying together even when they are not happy. Alternatively, most long-term same-sex couples have to stay together by their own will and hard work since they don’t have society’s forces on their side, Balsam added.

This was the first study to follow same-sex couples in legalized unions over a period of time. This type of design allows the researchers to monitor changes in the relationships and compare them with changes experienced by both same-sex couples not in civil unions and heterosexual couples. All the couples were comparable with respect to race/ethnicity and age at the time of the study.

Dev Psychol. 2008 Jan;44(1):91-101.
Adult romantic relationships as contexts of human development: A multimethod comparison of same-sex couples with opposite-sex dating, engaged, and married dyads.
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This article presents a multimethod, multi-informant comparison of community samples of committed gay male (n=30) and lesbian (n=30) couples with both committed (n=50 young engaged and n=40 older married) and noncommitted (n=109 exclusively dating) heterosexual pairs. Specifically, in this study the quality of same- and opposite-sex relationships was examined at multiple levels of analysis via self-reports and partner reports, laboratory observations, and measures of physiological reactivity during dyadic interactions. Additionally, individuals in same-sex, engaged, and marital relationships were compared with one another on adult attachment security as assessed through the coherence of participants’ narratives about their childhood experiences. Results indicated that individuals in committed same-sex relationships were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts, with one exception–lesbians were especially effective at working together harmoniously in laboratory observations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved).

Dev Psychol. 2008 Jan;44(1):102-16.
Three-year follow-up of same-sex couples who had civil unions in Vermont, same-sex couples not in civil unions, and heterosexual married couples.
Department of Psychology, University of Washington.

This study was a 3-year follow-up of 65 male and 138 female same-sex couples who had civil unions in Vermont during the 1st year of that legislation. These couples were compared with 23 male and 61 female same-sex couples in their friendship circles who did not have civil unions and with 55 heterosexual married couples (1 member of each was a sibling to a member of a civil union couple). Despite the legalized nature of their relationships, civil union couples did not differ on any measure from same-sex couples who were not in civil unions. However, same-sex couples not in civil unions were more likely to have ended their relationships than same-sex civil union or heterosexual married couples. Compared with heterosexual married participants, both types of same-sex couples reported greater relationship quality, compatibility, and intimacy and lower levels of conflict. Longitudinal predictors of relationship quality at Time 2 included less conflict, greater level of outness, and a shorter relationship length for men in same-sex relationships and included less conflict and more frequent sex for women in same-sex relationships at Time 1. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved).

Written by huehueteotl

January 24, 2008 at 3:19 pm

One Response

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  1. Thanks for this info. I will definately refer to it as I combat the hatred in the world.

    Jos76

    http://www.jos76.wordpress.com

    jos76

    January 25, 2008 at 2:02 am


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