Same-Sex Couples Share Unique Stress Experiences

First Posted: Jan 30, 2015 07:01 PM EST

Thirty-six states have legalized same-sex marriage, yet stigmas surrounding acceptance stand. Ongoing research by officials at San Francisco University is examining how many of these couples today are still stigmatized and disadvantaged in modern-day society.

"Stress research has traditionally focused more on the individual experience of stress, which is very important, but social contexts get overlooked," said lead study author Allen LeBlanc, Health Equity Institute Professor of Sociology at San Francisco State University, in a news release. "We are developing new ways of measuring stress at the couple level."

For their research, the study authors are working to undertake couple-level minority stress. Hundreds of couples across the country will participate in a study designed to measure individual and couple-level stress as distinct entities. A year later, the participants will be asked to complete a second survey to help them learn how stressful certain experiences can be and how it directly affects their lives, with an emphasis on their relationship. 

"Relationships aren't inherently seen as problematic or challenging," LeBlanc added. "A lot of important work has been focused on what is helpful or positive about being in a relationship. There is longstanding literature, for example, demonstrating that people who are married tend to have better health than those who are not. But relationships are also a source of stress, and we can learn from that."

The data from the survey will be used to test on the new theory of stress and health, helping to identify the kinds of stress that are most challenging for same-sex couples.

Though the study focuses on same-sex couples, researchers note that the data may also be used for other minority couples as including those of interfaith relationships, interracial relationships and couples who have a significantly older partner than others.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the Journal of Marriage and Family.

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