Same-Sex and Different-Sex Cohabiting Couple Relationship Stability

Abstract

Relationship stability is a key indicator of well-being, but most U.S.-based research has been limited to different-sex couples. The 2008 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) provides an untapped data resource to analyze relationship stability of same-sex cohabiting, different-sex cohabiting, and different-sex married couples (n = 5,701). The advantages of the SIPP data include the recent, nationally representative, and longitudinal data collection; a large sample of same-sex cohabitors; respondent and partner socioeconomic characteristics; and identification of a state-level indicator of a policy stating that marriage is between one man and one woman (i.e., DOMA). We tested competing hypotheses about the stability of same-sex versus different-sex cohabiting couples that were guided by incomplete institutionalization, minority stress, relationship investments, and couple homogamy perspectives (predicting that same-sex couples would be less stable) as well as economic resources (predicting that same-sex couples would be more stable). In fact, neither expectation was supported: results indicated that same-sex cohabiting couples typically experience levels of stability that are similar to those of different-sex cohabiting couples. We also found evidence of contextual effects: living in a state with a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage was significantly associated with higher levels of instability for same- and different-sex cohabiting couples. The level of stability in both same-sex and different-sex cohabiting couples is not on par with that of different-sex married couples. The findings contribute to a growing literature on health and well-being of same-sex couples and provide a broader understanding of family life.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    DOMA policies existed in some states based on a statutory basis but were not constitutional amendments, meaning they did not require a voter majority to pass and could be more easily overturned. To assess public opinion surrounding same-sex marriages, we focus on DOMA constitutional amendments.

  2. 2.

    We use the terms “homogamy” and “heterogamy” as they are commonly used in demographic research on cohabitation (Blackwell and Lichter 2004; Schwartz 2010), but we recognize that these terms technically refer to marriage.

  3. 3.

    Although the sample sizes do not support in-depth analyses of male-male and female-female couples separately, the life tables show higher levels of instability among female (33 %) than male (24 %) same-sex cohabiting couples. This pattern is consistent with some prior work, but these are not conclusive findings. The male-male and female-female couples are similar on all the sociodemographic indicators except presence of children, which is higher among female-female couples.

  4. 4.

    An interaction of the policy indicator and the same-sex couple measure is not statistically significant, suggesting that the DOMA constitutional amendment is associated with relationship stability in a similar manner for same- and different-sex cohabiting couples. This result should be interpreted with caution given the small sample sizes.

  5. 5.

    Results are similar when we limit the sample of married couples to those who have been married for fewer than 10 years.

  6. 6.

    Additional analyses indicate that the DOMA policy indicator is not associated with relationship stability for subsamples of married couples.

  7. 7.

    Supplemental analyses demonstrated that the interaction term for union type and DOMA was not statistically significant. These results should be considered with caution given small sample sizes.

References

  1. Amato, P. R. (2010). Research on divorce: Continuing trends and new developments. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 650–666.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Andersson, G., Noak, T., Seierstad, A., & Weedon-Fekjaer, H. (2006). The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden. Demography, 43, 79–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Badgett, M. V. L., & Herman, J. L. (2013). Patterns of relationship recognition by same-sex couples in the United States. In A. K. Baumle (Ed.), International handbook on the demography of sexuality (pp. 331–362). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Black, D., Gates, G., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2000). Demographics of the gay and lesbian population in the Unites States: Evidence from available systematic data resources. Demography, 37, 139–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Black, D., Gates, G., Sanders, S., & Taylor, L. (2007). The measurement of same-sex unmarried partner couples in the 2000 U.S. Census (On-Line Working Paper Series, No. CCPR-023-07). Los Angeles: California Center for Population Research. Retrieved from http://escholarship.org/uc/item/72r1q94b

  6. Blackwell, D. L., & Lichter, D. T. (2004). Homogamy among dating, cohabiting, and married couples. The Sociological Quarterly, 45, 719–737.

  7. Blumstein, P., & Schwartz, P. (1983). American couples. New York, NY: William Marrow.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bratter, J. L., & King, R. B. (2008). “But will it last?”: Marital instability among interracial and same-sex couples. Family Relations, 57, 160–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Brines, J., & Joyner, K. (1999). The ties that bind: Principles of cohesion in cohabitation and marriage. American Sociological Review, 64, 333–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cherlin, A. J. (1978). Remarriage as an incomplete institution. American Journal of Sociology, 84, 634–650.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Copen, C. E., Daniels, K., & Mosher, W. D. (2013). First premarital cohabitation in the United States: 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth (National Health Statistics Report, No. 64). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

  12. Dillender, M. (2014). The death of marriage? The effects of new forms of legal recognition on marriage rates in the United States. Demography, 51, 563–585.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Gates, G. J. (2009). Same-sex spouses and unmarried partners in the American Community Survey, 2008 (Report). Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-ACS2008FullReport-Sept-2009.pdf

  14. Gates, G. J. (2013). Demographics and LGBT health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 54, 22–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Gates, G. J. (2015). Demographics of married and unmarried same-sex couples: Analyses of the 2013 American Community Survey (Report). Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Demographics-Same-Sex-Couples-ACS2013-March-2015.pdf

  16. Goldberg, A. E., Gartrell, N. K., & Gates, G. (2014). Research report on LGB-parent families (Report). Los Angeles, CA: Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/lgb-parent-families-july-2014.pdf

  17. Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K. M., & Hasin, D. S. (2009). State-level policies and psychiatric morbidity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 2275–2281.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Joyner, K., Manning, W. D., & Bogle, R. (2014). Social context and the stability of same-sex and different-sex relationships (2014 Working Paper Series). Bowling Green, OH: Center for Family and Demographic Research.

  19. Kalmijn, M., Loeve, A., & Manting, D. (2007). Income dynamics in couples and the dissolution of marriage and cohabitation. Demography, 44, 159–179.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Krivickas, K. M. (2010). FP-10-08 Same-sex couple households in the U.S., 2009 (Family Profiles, Paper No. 14). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family and Marriage Research. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=ncfmr_family_profiles

  21. Kurdek, L. A. (1998). Relationship outcomes and their predictors: Longitudinal evidence from heterosexual married, gay cohabiting, and lesbian cohabiting couples. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 553–568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kurdek, L. A. (2004). Are gay and lesbian cohabiting couples really different from heterosexual married couples? Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 880–900.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Langbein, L., & Yost, M. A., Jr. (2009). Same-sex marriage and negative externalities. Social Science Quarterly, 90, 292–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lau, C. Q. (2012). The stability of same-sex cohabitation, different-sex cohabitation, and marriage. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 973–988.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Levinger, G. (1965). Marital cohesiveness and dissolution: An integrative review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 27, 19–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Manning, W. D., & Cohen, J. A. (2012). Premarital cohabitation and marital dissolution: An examination of recent marriages. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 377–387.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Meyer, I. H. (1995). Minority stress and mental health in gay men. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 38–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Mohr, J. J., & Daly, C. A. (2008). Sexual minority stress and changes in relationship quality in same-sex couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 25, 989–1007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Nock, S. L. (1995). A comparison of marriages and cohabiting relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 16, 53–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. O’Connell, M. T., & Lofquist, D. A. (2009). Changes to the American Community Survey between 2007 and 2008 and their potential effect on the estimates of same-sex couple households (Report). Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/samesex/files/changes-to-acs-2007-to-2008.pdf

  31. O’Connell, M. T., Lofquist, D. A., Simmons, T., & Lugaila, T. A. (2010, April). New estimates of same-sex couple households from the American Community Survey. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Dallas, TX. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hh-fam/SS_new-estimates.pdf

  32. Otis, M. D., Rostosky, S. S., Riggle, E. D. B., & Hamrin, R. (2006). Stress and relationship quality in same-sex couples. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23, 81–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Payne, K. K. (2011). U.S. families and households: Economic well-being (NCFMR Family Profiles, No. FP-11-01). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. Retrieved from https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-11-01.pdf

  34. Payne, K. K. (2014). Demographic profile of same-sex couple households with minor children, 2012 (NCFMR Family Profiles, No. FP-14-03). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. Retrieved from http://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-14-03_DemoSSCoupleHH.pdf

  35. Phillips, J. A., & Sweeney, M. M. (2006). Can differential exposure to risk factors explain recent racial and ethnic variation in marital disruption? Social Science Research, 35, 409–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Rosenfeld, M. J. (2014). Couple longevity in the era of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Journal of Marriage and Family, 76, 905–918.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Rosenfeld, M. J., & Kim, B. S. (2005). The independence of young adults and the rise of interracial and same-sex unions. American Sociological Review, 70, 541–562.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Ross, H., Gask, K., & Berrington, A. (2011). Civil partnerships five years on. Population Trends, 145, 172–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Schwartz, C. R. (2010). Pathways to educational homogamy in marital and cohabiting unions. Demography, 47, 735–753.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Schwartz, C. R., & Graf, N. L. (2009). Assortative mating among same-sex and different-sex couples in the United States, 1990–2000. Demographic Research, 21(article 28), 843–878. doi:10.4054/DemRes.2009.21.28

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Steenhof, L., & Harmsen, C. (2004). Same-sex couples in the Netherlands. In M. Digoix & P. Festy (Eds.), Same-sex couples, same-sex partnerships & homosexual marriages. A focus on cross-national differentials (Documents de travail No. 124, INED; pp. 233–243). Retrieved from https://www.ined.fr/fichier/s_rubrique/19410/124.fr.pdf

  42. Teachman, J. D. (2002). Stability across cohorts in divorce risk factors. Demography, 39, 331–351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Trandafir, M. (2014). The effect of same-sex marriage laws on different-sex marriage: Evidence from the Netherlands. Demography, 51, 317–340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Characteristics of same-sex couple households [Data file]. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/samesex/data/acs.html

  45. U.S. Census Bureau. (2013). Characteristics of same-sex couple households [Data file]. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/samesex/

  46. Williams, S. (2012). Child poverty in the United States, 2010 (NCFMR Family Profiles, No. FP-12-17). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. Retrieved from https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-12-17.pdf

  47. Williams, S. (2013). Public assistance participation among U.S. children in poverty, 2010 (NCFMR Family Profiles, No. FP-13-02). Bowling Green, OH: National Center for Family & Marriage Research. Retrieved from https://www.bgsu.edu/content/dam/BGSU/college-of-arts-and-sciences/NCFMR/documents/FP/FP-13-02.pdf

Download references

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge support from the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University, which has core funding from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R24HD050959). We appreciate additional data assistance provided by Hsueh-Sheng Wu.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Wendy D. Manning.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Manning, W.D., Brown, S.L. & Stykes, J. Same-Sex and Different-Sex Cohabiting Couple Relationship Stability. Demography 53, 937–953 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0490-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Union stability
  • LGBT
  • Cohabitation
  • Marriage