Academic journal article Family Relations

A Conditional Process Model Explaining Partnered Gay Men's Perceived Relationship Stability

Academic journal article Family Relations

A Conditional Process Model Explaining Partnered Gay Men's Perceived Relationship Stability

Article excerpt

Recent research (Hatzenbuehler, Keyes, & Hason, 2009) suggests that lesbian, gay, bisex- ual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals who live in less affirming contexts, when compared to those living in more affirming contexts, are more likely to experience depressive and anx- ious symptoms. Other research suggests many of these symptoms are likely attributable to the negative experiences related to being a minority (Newcomb & Mustanski, 2010), which include internalized homophobia (i.e., varying levels of distain directed toward oneself for being gay) and stigmatization (i.e., perceived or experi- enced discrimination; Meyer, 2003). However, few studies exist that directly examine how such experiences influence same-sex relationships. Studies of this nature find internalized homo- phobia (e.g., Frost & Meyer, 2009) and stigma consciousness (i.e., the awareness or expectation that one will likely be discriminated against; e.g., Otis, Rostosky, Riggle, & Hamrin, 2006) can reduce relationship quality. Unfortunately, no research is available that examines how these factors influence perceived relationship stability, which is our focus here.

Over the past decade important shifts have emerged in the study of family relationships among same-sex couples (Biblarz & Savci, 2010). Among these, more attention has been paid to the unique experiences of same-sex cou- ples, especially those related to various forms of discrimination in social and legal contexts (van Eeden-Moorefield, Martell, Williams, & Preston, 2011). This represents a significant shift from understanding how discrimination influences LGBT individuals to its influence on LGBT-headed families. At the same time as research is beginning to examine unique experiences of same-sex couples, research also focuses on their comparability to different-sex couples (e.g., Biblarz & Savci, 2010; Kurdek, 2006).

Studies that compare relational processes and outcomes between same-sex and different-sex couples are important in that they suggest great similarities between the two (e.g., Kurdek, 2006). In fact, this degree of similarity has been used as a catalyst for positive social change. This is especially evident in the advancement of legal rights, including the recent Supreme Court rulings that allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California (Hollingsworth v. Perry, 2013) and provided for federal recognition of same-sex marriages occurring at the state level (United States v. Windsor, 2013). However, from a queer feminist lens (Weed & Schor, 1997), it can be argued that research finding similarities between couples represents a heteronormative bias in as much as it suggests there is one best family (The Standard North American Family [SNAF]) that same-sex couples should emulate (e.g., Kurdek, 2006). By covertly, or overtly, making this suggestion, the diversity within same-sex headed families and some of their unique experiences (e.g., discrimination) are made invisible. Accordingly, our interest here is to examine such variation in levels of internalized homophobia among a cross-section of partnered gay men by testing a conceptual model of conditional indirect effects (i.e., con- ditional process model). In doing so, we seek to explain how the aforementioned factors (stigma consciousness, relationship closeness [herein referred to simply as closeness]) work together at different levels of internalized homophobia to influence perceived relationship stability.

Conceptual Framework

A Queer Feminist Lens. This study is framed using a queer feminist lens (Weed & Schor, 1997), which aims to reveal and examine het- eronormative biases (i.e., those that perpetuate and attribute privilege and resources to individ- uals and families that fit U.S. ideals such as sug- gesting there is only one "normal and natural" family; e.g.,SNAF). Consistent with this lens, this study views families as socially constructed entities reflecting some mixture of heteronorma- tive ideology and agency (van Eeden-Moorefield et al. …

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