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Are homosexual relationships as stable as heterosexual ones?

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Posted October 16, 2014
Picture: Gay Liberation sculpture in New York City

Picture: Gay Liberation sculpture in New York City. Image credit: Tony Fischer via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

Gay marriage is one of the hottest topics today. Unfortunately, discussions about this difficult topic are often fueled by prejudices and emotions. But what does science say about family life of same-sex couples? Interestingly, recent study carried out by Michael J. Rosenfeld at Stanford University shows that homosexual relationships are as stable as heterosexual ones. He argues that “reports of same-sex relationship instability in the past were due in part to the low rate of marriages among same-sex couples.”

“Research on same-sex couple longevity using data that predated the era of same-sex marriage generally showed that same-sex couples were less stable than heterosexual couples,” the sociologist says. However, previous studies were not based on the nationally representative samples. In contrast, Rosenfeld explored datasets which represents whole U.S. population.

In fact, the beginning of his analysis was not surprising. American scholar found out that heterosexual relationships are more durable than homosexual ones. However, Rosenfeld remained cautious about his results. He suspected that observed difference can be caused by the fact that gay and lesbian marriages were still illegal, when the survey was carried out. “Once marriage and marriage-like unions are controlled for, same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have statistically indistinguishable rates of breakup, confirming,” the scientist explains.

At the first glance, it seems that stability of the romantic relationship should depend on the state recognition. However, analysis suggests that marriage-like relationships are stable independent of the state support.  Nonetheless, legal recognition can increase the rate of same-sex marriages. “In the How Couples Meet and Stay Together first-wave survey of 2009, the percentage of same-sex couples who were married was 42% in states that recognized same-sex couples (in any way) compared to a 28% rate of marriage for same-sex couples who lived in states that did not recognize formal unions for same-sex couples (and the difference in marriage rates is statistically significant),” the researcher reports.

Interestingly, study shows that divergences between gay and lesbian couples exist. On the one hand, lesbian pairs are more often married and more often live together. However, statistical control of marriage and cohabitation shows that breakup probability of lesbian couples is much higher than the breakup probability of gay or heterosexual pairs. “Despite the declining universality of marriage in the United States for heterosexual couples, marriage is a uniquely important predictor of couple stability for both heterosexual and same-sex couples,” author of the study concludes.

Article: Rosenfeld, M. J., 2014, Couple Longevity in the Era of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76: 905–918. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12141, source link.

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