Category: Couples / Close Relationships

Symposium

Characterizing Relationship Commitment Structures and Their Impact on Psychological and Relationship Health

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

The study and treatment of relationship processes tends to evaluate all relationship behaviors through the lens of a traditional, monogamous relationship structure. The present study attempts to characterize the diversity of relationship commitment structures, taking a multidimensional approach by assessing monogamy attitudes, extradyadic sexual activity (EDSA), and communication surrounding EDSA and then using latent profile analysis (LPA) to identify fundamental commitment structures as well as examine their behavioral correlates.


 


METHOD: Analyses were conducted in a cross-sectional online sample of 1658 individuals in relationships. Participants were mostly female (70%), white (79%), and heterosexual (66%). In addition to reporting on agreed-upon commitment structure, respondents also reported their own and their partner’s desire for monogamy, actual EDSA in the last 2 months, as well as knowledge and distress of each other’s EDSA.


 


RESULTS: LPAs indicated a 5-class solution provided the best fit to the data, revealing the following commitment structure classes including: TRADITIONAL MONOGAMY (n=629, minimal EDSA, traditional attitudes), MONOGAMY WITH SOME EDSA (n=496, high levels of communication and awareness around EDSA, traditional attitudes), FULLY-OPEN (n=128, highest rates of EDSA, high communication and awareness around EDSA, low desire for monogamy). Two final classes represented less healthy structures: ONE-SIDED (n=187, high EDSA by respondent, low communication and awareness with partner, partner more traditional), and AMBIVALENTLY-OPEN (n=218, moderate levels of EDSA with moderate levels of awareness, communication, and distress around EDSA).


 


ANOVAs, X2, and post-hoc analyses suggested that respondents in the ONE-SIDED and AMBIVALENTLY-OPEN groups had lower levels of relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and individual self-esteem while showing higher levels of psychological distress, loneliness, and unhealthy drinking than those in the remaining three groups. In contrast, respondents in FULLY-OPEN relationships had high levels of individual and relationship functioning. When examining risky sexual behavior, all three open classes demonstrated higher rates of unprotected sex and STIs. Taken together, these results suggest assessing commitment structures can provide insight into individual and relationship functioning. Although monogamy represented the dominant commitment structure, distinct classes emerged including one representing a healthy approach to open relationships. Implications for treatment will be discussed.

Dev Crasta

Doctoral Candidate
University of Rochester

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