191527 Gay-related stress, relationship health and relationship formalization among same-sex couples

Monday, October 27, 2008: 11:30 AM

Natalya Maisel, MA, CPhil , University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Public debate is currently raging both within the U.S. and around the globe regarding the legal status of same-sex unions. The goal of this research was to compare the life experiences of gay and lesbian couples who have sought some form of legal or public recognition with those who have not. Participants in same-sex relationships were recruited from the Internet and from the Domestic Partnership registry in California. We predicted that participants who had legal or public recognition of their relationship would report greater relationship satisfaction and commitment. We also predicted that legal or public recognition would buffer couples from the effects of gay-related stress. In other words, having the security of public or legal commitment might protect couples when faced with stressors such as rejection from family. Results from this survey study demonstrated that gay-related stress is negatively associated with relationship quality. Interestingly, the results suggest that relationship formalization is not a unitary construct in the context of same-sex relationships: The presence of a ceremony predicted higher levels of relationship satisfaction and commitment, but it did not predict investments in the relationship. Alternately, the presence of a legal domestic partnership predicted higher levels of investments, but it did not predict satisfaction or commitment. Finally, the results demonstrated that couples who had had a formal ceremony were more resilient in the face of stress than those who had not had a ceremony. This investigation has implications for understanding how different policies may affect same-sex couples.

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the effects of gay-related stress on individuals and on same-sex couples. Describe the potential beneficial effects of legal and public recognition for same-sex couples.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a 5th-year doctoral student in Social Psychology at UCLA, where I conduct research and publish on same-sex couples. I have also conducted research with the UCLA Williams Institute on LGBT law and policy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.