Kin, kith, and same-sex couple quality
This study maps the social networks of lesbian and gay couples and shows how their networks affect couple relationship quality. Respondents had to be ages 30 to 55 inclusive, living together at least one year, without children, and residing in Washington State. Recruitment of equal numbers of women and men residing equally within Seattle and elsewhere around the state yielded 83 same-sex couples well distributed in these categories. This cross-sectional study combines both quantitative and qualitative data from written questionnaires and intensive interviews completed separately and confidentially by both partners in each couple. Both instruments assessed multiple measures of family and community relations, relationship quality, and sociodemographics. Respondents completed an inventory of associates providing specific types of support---the support exchange network-and enumerated five types of family and close friend groups---the family and friend network. Respondents named a total of 3,662 persons (991 listed by both partners) in their networks. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques, including multiple linear regressions, informed analyses of the impact of gender, geographic location, gay community involvement, and network interactions on several aspects of couple quality, including relative relationship commitment, autonomy, and power; conflict; dyadic adjustment; satisfaction; and perceived stability. Regardless of couple sex, location, or level of gay community involvement, couples' networks looked remarkably similar and had similar impacts on relationship quality. Different aspects of networks played distinct roles in relationship quality. The support exchange network and "chosen families" (consisting primarily of friends) were sources of social support targeting the individual more than the couple. These individual resources had no impact on positive couple quality indicators but they could decrease one's dependence on the relationship and increase one's relative power within the relationship. Problematic network associates had pervasive negative effects on relationship quality. Immediate families (containing a high proportion of biolegal relatives), overlap between partners' networks, and lesbian support were associated with enhanced relationship satisfaction, adjustment, and perceived stability. The implications for gender, sexual communities, and kinship are considered.
- Sociology