Stress and the Provision of Social Support in Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Marriages

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Debra UMBERSON, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Corinne RECZEK, Ohio State University, USA
Rhiannon KROEGER, Louisiana State University, USA
Rachel DONNELLY, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Brandon ROBINSON, University of Texas at Austin, USA
Previous studies suggest that women are more attuned than men to the emotional needs of their spouse, and that women are more responsive in providing support to their spouse during periods of stress. However, past research is built on the assumption of gender difference within heterosexual marriage. In this study, we analyze dyadic diary data from 100 gay, 100 lesbian, and 100 heterosexual married couples (N = 600 individuals and 6000 diary days) to examine the degree to which spouses are aware of each other’s stress levels and how much support they provide to each to each other during periods of stress. We focus particularly on the possibility that gender differences in these processes will depend on whether individuals are in same-sex or different-sex unions. Specifically, we compare same- and different-sex marriages to ask: Do men and women differ on average in the amount of support they report providing (and receiving) from their spouse over the 10-day period; Does one spouse’s stress levels influence the amount of support provided by the other spouse? Preliminary results suggest that men and women in same-sex relationships report receiving more social support from their spouse than do men and women in different-sex relationships. Further, increases in one spouse’s stress levels are associated with significantly higher levels of social support from the other spouse, but only if the spouse providing the support is a woman. Subsequent analyses will focus on how stress/support dynamics unfold over the entire 10 day diary period across different union types. Understanding how stress and social support unfold in same-sex as well as different-sex marriages informs understanding of gendered relationship processes that have the potential to influence marital quality as well as the mental health of both partners.