Category: Couples / Close Relationships

Symposium

Diversity in Sexual Orientation and Association to Relationship Commitment: A Comparison of U.S. and Italian Couples

Saturday, November 18
1:15 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom E & F, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Couples / Close Relationships | Diversity | L / G / B / T
Presentation Type: Symposium

Assessing couple relationships across diverse languages and cultures has important implications for both clinical intervention and prevention.  This is especially true for nontraditional relationships such as same-sex couples who are potentially subject to various expressions of negative societal evaluations.


 


Previous research using the Marital Satisfaction Inventory – Revised, a 150-item multidimensional measure of relationship functioning, with gay and lesbian couples in both the United States (Means-Christensen, Snyder, & Negy, 2003)  and Italy (Antonelli, Dèttore, Lasagni, Snyder, & Balderrama-Durbin, 2014) has shown that their relationships appear resilient and fare well both overall and in specific domains of functioning compared to heterosexual couples in their respective countries.  However, these findings are based on profile comparisons at the composite scale level and do not take advantage of finer-grained comparisons at the individual item level using newer data-analytic strategies derived from item-response theory (IRT).


 


The present study used differential item functioning (DIF) analysis, derived from IRT, to compare heterosexual and same-sex couples on items assessing relationship commitment, and to contrast findings across two cultures differing in societal response to diversity in sexual orientation.  DIF analysis provides a way of identifying differences in item responses for one group versus another group by examining items with respect to their relatedness to a latent construct (discrimination or parameter a), and in terms of their likelihood of endorsement at certain levels of that latent construct (difficulty or parameter b), while controlling for mean differences on the latent continuum.


 


The samples included (a) 31 gay male couples and 28 lesbian couples from Texas (U.S.), compared with 36 unmarried, cohabiting heterosexual couples recruited from the same geographic region, and (b) 30 gay male couples and 30 lesbian couples from central Italy, compared with 60 heterosexual Italian couples from the same geographic region.  Five items assessing relationship commitment were: “My partner and I have never come close to ending our relationship” (reverse scored), “The future of our relationship is too uncertain for us to make any serious plans,” “At times I have very much wanted to leave my partner,” “I might be happier if I weren’t in this relationship,” and “I have often wondered whether our relationship may end in separation or divorce.”


 


Results highlight specific aspects of relationship commitment that vary across two dimensions of diversity – that is, both with respect to sexual orientation as well as national culture.  Implications of these findings for clinical assessment and intervention, within larger societal contexts and unique pressures, will be discussed.

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