Handbook of Attachment: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications

By Jude Cassidy; Phillip R. Shaver | Go to book overview

18
Same-Sex Romantic Attachment

JONATHAN J. MOHR

Without warning
as a whirlwind
swoops on an oak
love shakes my heart

­SAPPHO

Same-sex romantic relationships appear to have existed in most cultures throughout recorded history, regardless of prevailing attitudes toward homosexuality and bisexuality (Boswell, 1994; Greenberg, 1988). Despite popular opinions that same-sex couples are less stable, satisfied, and committed than their heterosexual counterparts (Herek, 1991b; Peplau, 1991), the emerging empirical literature on lesbian and gay male relationships provides strong evidence that this is not the case. Indeed, research to date has indicated that the similarities between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships far outweigh the differences (Kurdek, 1995; Peplau, 1993).

The study of same-sex couples has evolved over the past two decades from an early emphasis on atheoretical, descriptive research to a more recent focus on the application of theories that were originally developed to explain oppositesex relationship functioning (Kurdek, 1995). A steadily growing body of research has shown that current frameworks for understanding intimate relationship functioning, such as those offered by the interdependence, contextual, and problemsolving models, may be profitably applied to the study of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples (Kurdek, 1991a, 1997).

This chapter provides a basis for applying Bowlby’s theory of attachment to same-sex love relationships. Although attachment researchers initially focused on the infant–caregiver bond, the past decade has witnessed a tremendous growth in the number of studies using attachment theory as a framework for investigating adult romantic relationships (see Feeney, Chapter 17, this volume). This research has shown not only that romantic love may be profitably conceptualized as part of an attachment-related process, but that many aspects of relationship functioning can be reliably predicted by differences in the ways individuals internally represent their attachment relationships (i.e., differences in their working models of attachment). For example, studies have shown that positive working models of self and other are related to a wide variety of adaptive relationship behaviors, including effective conflict resolution (Pistole, 1989; Simpson, Rholes, & Phillips, 1996), support seeking and giving (Kunce & Shaver, 1994; Simpson, Rholes, & Nelligan, 1992), positive communication (Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), and joint problem solving (Kobak & Hazan, 1991).

The vast majority of work on adult romantic attachment has focused on opposite-sex relationships. Only a small handful of papers have acknowledged the potential relevance of attachment theory to lesbian, gay male, and bisexual

-378-

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