Couples/Family

Bepko, C., & Johnson, T. (2000). Gay and lesbian couples in therapy: Perspectives for the contemporary family therapist. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26, 409-419.
Outlines issues and concerns of gay and lesbian couples who seek therapy. The authors examine 4 "external" factors influencing lesbian/gay couples' functioning: (1) homophobia and heterosexism, (2) gender norms, (3) issues around coming out to others, and (4) social support from family of origin and family of choice. Also examined are internal aspects of lesbian/gay couples' functioning, the dydadic interaction patterns between the partners, and intrapsychic underpinnings of those patterns. Throughout the article, therapy methods are described that address the unique concerns of lesbian and gay couples, with special sensitivity to heterosexist and homophobic bias. It is concluded that effective work with lesbian and gay couples requires therapists to be familiar with the unique norms of the lesbian/gay community to avoid pathologizing what may be normative behavior for couples in that community.

Crawford, I., McLeod, A., Zamboni, B. D., & Jordan, M. B. (1999). Psychologists' attitudes toward gay and lesbian parenting. Professional Psychology: Research & Practice, 30, 394-401.
How does the average practicing psychologist view a gay or lesbian couple wishing to adopt a child? Psychologists (N = 388) from across the United States read and rated 1 of 6 vignettes describing a couple interested in adopting a 5-year-old child. The vignettes were identical except that the couples' sexual orientation was depicted as gay male, lesbian, or heterosexual and the child was either a girl or boy. Results indicated that participants who rated the gay male and lesbian couples with a female child were less likely to recommend custody for these couples than participants who rated the heterosexual couples. Before psychologists provide mental health services to gay and lesbian people and their children, they should complete formal, systematic training on sexual diversity.

Elizur, Y., & Ziv, M. (2001). Family support and acceptance, gay male identity, and psychological adjustment: A path model. Family Process, 40, 125-144.
While heterosexist family undermining has been demonstrated to be a developmental risk factor in the life of persons with same-gender orientation, the issue of protective family factors is both controversial and relatively neglected. In this study of 114 Israeli gay males (16-55 yr olds), we focused on the interrelations of family support, family acceptance, and family knowledge of gay orientation, and gay male identity formation, and their effects on mental health and self-esteem. A path model was proposed based on the hypothesis that family support, family acceptance, family knowledge, and gay identity formation have an impact on psychological adjustment, and that family support has an effect on gay identity formation that is mediated by family acceptance. The testing of our conceptual path model demonstrated an excellent fit with the data. An alternative model that hypothesized effects of gay male identity on family acceptance and family knowledge did not fit the data. Interpreting these results, we propose that the main effect of family support/acceptance on gay identity is related to the process of disclosure, and that both general family support and family acceptance of same-gender orientation play a significant role in the psychological adjustment of gay men.

Flaks, D., Ficher, I., Masterpasqua, F., & Joseph, G. (1995). Lesbians choosing motherhood: A comparative study of lesbian and heterosexual parents and their children. Developmental Psychology, 31, 104-114.
Compared 15 lesbian couples and the 3- to 9-yr-old children born to them through donor insemination with 15 matched, heterosexual-parent families. A variety of assessment measures were used to evaluate the children's cognitive functioning and behavioral adjustment as well as the parents' relationship quality and parenting skills. Results revealed no significant differences between the 2 groups of children, who also compared favorably with the standardization samples for the instruments used. In addition, no significant differences were found between dyadic adjustment of lesbian and heterosexual couples. Only in the area of parenting did the 2 groups of couples differ; lesbian couples exhibited more parenting awareness skills than did heterosexual couples. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Gottman, J.M., Levenson, R.W., Gross, J., Fredrickson, B.L., McCoy, K., Rosenthan, L., Ruef, A., & Yoshimoto, D. (2003). Correlates of gay and lesbian couples' relationship satisfaction and relationship dissolution. Journal of Homosexuality, 45, 23-43.
A sample of committed gay and lesbian cohabiting couples engaged in two conversations after being apart for at least 8 hours: (a) an events of the day conversation and (b) a conflict resolution conversation. Physiological data were collected during the conversations and a videotape record was made. Couples viewed the videotapes and rated their affect during the interaction. The video records were coded with a system that categorized specific affects displayed. Models derived from physiology, from the perception of interaction, and from specific affective behavior were related to relationship satisfaction, and to the prediction of relationship dissolution over a 12-year period. Results supported previous findings that satisfaction and stability in gay and lesbian relationships are related to similar emotional qualities as in heterosexual relationships.

Kurdek, L. A. (2004). Are gay and lesbian cohabiting couples really different from heterosexual married couples? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 880-900.
Both partners from gay and lesbian cohabiting couples without children were compared longitudinally with both partners from heterosexual married couples with children (N at first assessment = 80, 53, and 80 couples, respectively) on variables from 5 domains indicative of relationship health. For 50% of the comparisons, gay and lesbian partners did not differ from heterosexual partners. Seventy-eight percent of the comparisons on which differences were found indicated that gay or lesbian partners functioned better than heterosexual partners did. Because the variables that predicted concurrent relationship quality and relationship stability for heterosexual parents also did so for gay and lesbian partners, I conclude that the processes that regulate relationship functioning generalize across gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples.

LaSala, M. C. (2004). Extradyadic sex and gay male couples: Comparing monogamous and nonmonogamous relationships. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 85, 405-412.
In this study, the author compared the relationship quality of sexually monogamous and nonmonogamous gay male couples. Among a nationwide surveyed sample of 121 gay male couples, no differences were found between strictly monogamous and openly nonmonogamous couples on scores of the Dyadic Adjustment Scale (DAS). In addition, mean DAS scores for both groups were within functional ranges. However, self-reported monogamous couples in which 1 or both members engaged in extrarelational sex were less adjusted and satisfied than their nonmonogamous and strictly monogamous counterparts. The findings suggest that for some gay men, sexual monogamy may not be a necessary component of a satisfactory, committed relationship, and social workers assisting gay male couples might need to reconsider traditional ideas about sex, intimacy, and commitment.

Mohr, J.J., & Fassinger, R.E. (2006). Self-acceptance and self-disclosure of sexual orientation in lesbian, gay and bisexual adults: An attachment perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 50, 482-495.
A model linking attachment variables with self-acceptance and self-disclosure of sexual orientation was tested using data from 489 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults. The model included the following 4 domains of variables: (a) representations of childhood attachment experiences with parents, (b) perceptions of parental support for sexual orientation, (c) general working model of attachment, and (d) LGB variables. Results generally supported the proposed model. For example, attachment avoidance and anxiety were associated with self-acceptance difficulties, and avoidance was associated with low levels of outness in everyday life. Parental attachment had an indirect effect on identity and outness through its associations with parental LGB support and general attachment. Some results varied depending on participants' gender and parental religious affiliation.

Newman, B.S., Muzzonigro, P.G. (1993). The effects of traditional family values on the coming out process of gay male adolescents. Adolescence, 28, 213-216.
Studied stages of the coming out process and the influence of racial and ethnic identification and the pressure of traditional family values on 27 17-20 yr old African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian/Eurasian, and Caucasian male adolescents who were in the midst of accepting a gay identity. Questionnaire results suggest 3 stages: sensitization; awareness with confusion, denial, guilt, and shame; and acceptance. Traditional family values played a greater role in predicting coming out experiences than did race. Families were categorized as having high or low traditional values based on (1) the importance of religion, (2) emphasis on marriage, (3) emphasis on having children, and (4) whether a non-English language was spoken in the home. Families with a strong emphasis on traditional values were perceived as less accepting of homosexuality than were the low traditional families.

Patterson, C.J. (1992). Children of lesbian and gay parents. Child Development, 63, 1025–1042.
Reviews research on the personal and social development of children of gay or lesbian parents (CGLP). Beginning with estimates of the numbers of such children, sociocultural, theoretical, and legal reasons for attention to their development are then outlined. In this context, studies on sexual identity, personal development, and social relationships among these children are reviewed. Evidence does not show that the development of CGLP is compromised significantly relative to that among children of heterosexual parents in comparable situations.

Patterson, C. J. (1995). Families of the baby boom: Parents' division of labor and children's adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 31, 115-123.
Assessed lesbian couples' division of labor, their satisfaction with division of labor and with their relationships, and their children's psychosocial adjustment. The 26 participating families were headed by lesbian couples, each of whom had at least 1 child between 4 and 9 yrs of age. Parents' relationship satisfaction was generally high but was unrelated to measures of parental division of labor or of children's adjustment. Although both parents reported sharing household tasks and decision making equally, biological mothers reported greater involvement in child care, and nonbiological mothers reported spending longer hours in paid employment. Parents were more satisfied and children were more well-adjusted when labor involved in child care was more evenly distributed between the parents.

Patterson, C. J. (2000). Family relationships of lesbians and gay men. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1052-1069.
Presents an overview of research on the family lives of lesbians and gay men. It is noted that the family lives of lesbian and gay people have been a source of controversy during the past decade. Despite prejudice and discrimination, lesbians and gay men have often succeeded in creating and sustaining family relationships. Research on same-gender couple relationships, parent-child relationships, and other family relationships are reviewed here. In general, the picture of lesbian and gay relationships emerging from this body of work is one of positive adjustment, even in the face of stressful conditions. Research is also beginning to address questions about individual differences among the family relationships of lesbians and gay men. It is concluded that future work in this area has the potential to affect lesbian and gay lives, influence developmental and family theory, and inform public policies.

Roth, S. (1985). Psychotherapy with lesbian couples: Individual issues, female socialization, and the social context. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 11, 273-286.
Argues that relationship patterns in lesbian couples vary systematically from relationship patterns in heterosexual couples in ways that are related to the exclusively female composition of these couples, their stigmatizable identity, and the lack of social recognition and acceptance for such family units. These pattern differences are addressed from a systematic perspective in the 5 major issues most often presented by lesbian couples at the beginning of therapy: distance regulation and boundary maintenance, sexual expression, financial arrangements, breaking up, and stage differences in coming out and development of lesbian identity. It is concluded that effective therapy with lesbian couples requires that the therapist be skilled at seeing the interrelationships among the individual, couple, and larger social systems.

Stacey, J. & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) Does sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 65, 159-183.
Opponents of lesbian and gay parental rights claim that children with lesbigay parents are at higher risk for a variety of negative outcomes. Yet most research in psychology concludes that there are no differences in developmental outcomes between children raised by lesbigay parents and those raised by heterosexual parents. This analysis challenges this defensive conceptual framework and analyzes how heterosexism has hampered intellectual progress in the field. The authors discuss limitations in the definitions, samples, and analyses of the studies to date. Next they explore findings from 21 studies and demonstrate that researchers frequently downplay findings indicating difference regarding children's gender and sexual preferences and behavior that could stimulate important theoretical questions. A less defensive, more sociologically informed analytic framework is proposed for investigating these issues. The framework focuses on (1) whether selection effects produced by homophobia account for associations between parental sexual orientations and child outcomes; (2) the role of parental gender vis-a-vis sexual orientation in influencing children's gender development; and (3) the relationship between parental sexual orientations and children's sexual preferences and behaviors.

 

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AFFIRM Network, c/o Marvin Goldfried | Psychology Department, SUNY at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500 | marvin.goldfried @stonybrook.edu