Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues

Symposium

Associations of Observed and Reported Relationship Functioning With LGB Identity and Stress in Same-Sex Couples

Saturday, November 18
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom A, Level 2, Indigo Level

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

Introduction: Beyond common relationship challenges, same-sex couples contend with stress conferred by their marginalized social status. However, most research on relationship functioning has focused on heterosexual couples, with little attention to diversity. Few studies have applied methodology from relationship science, such as behavioral observation, to same-sex couples. Further, studies have generally not examined associations between indices of relationship functioning and factors that might affect same-sex couples uniquely, such as stigma or identity.


 


Method: Same-sex male (n=41) and female (n=40) couples participated in a laboratory study of romantic relationship functioning. Partners completed well-validated questionnaires of strength of their LGB identity, experiences of stigma, outness about their sexual orientation, and relationship satisfaction. Partners’ behavior during conflict was coded by trained raters using a standardized coding scheme (the R-MICS). Multilevel models, controlling for gender and relationship length, tested associations between sexual minority stress and identity with relationship functioning (questionnaire, observed behavior).


 


Results: At the within-couple level, outness (B=.11, pp=.05) were associated with relationship satisfaction, such that individuals more out in their community and with stronger LGB identity were more satisfied. Individuals reporting more stigma, relative to their partner, engaged in higher levels of negative conflict behaviors (e.g., criticism, withdrawal) (B=.45, pp’s>.05).


 


Discussion: Findings indicate that some cultural factors among same-sex couples appear to buffer relationships (outness, positive identity), while others (stigma) might undermine them by exacerbating conflict. Results have implications for clinicians in the assessment of LGB identity and stress among same-sex couples in couple therapy. Further research is needed to examine how other cultural variables buffer or reduce relationship quality among sexual minority couples. 

Nicholas S. Perry

Graduate student
University of Utah

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