Quyen A. Do, M.Ed., Kayla Knopp, Ph.D., Shelby B. Scott, Ph.D.
Shelby B. Scott
Quyen A. Do
Introduction: Relationship dissolution is common in the United States with 50% of all marriages ending in divorce (Raymond, 2008). Female same-gender couples break up at higher rates than mixed-gender and male same-gender couples (Andersson et al., 2006; Kurdek, 2004; Balsam et al., 2017). The effects of relationship dissolution are significant, including negative implications on emotional and mental health problems (Bimbaum et al., 1997). Despite these associations, limited research has been done on reasons for and predictors of dissolution in female same-gender couples. As such, the current study sought to examine both retrospective reasons and longitudinal predictors of relationship dissolution in a sample of female same-gender couples. Method: The current study used data from a longitudinal study of female same-gender couples (N = 94 couples, M age = 33, median individual income = $30,000-$35,000 annually). Data were collected at two assessment points 7 years apart. At Wave 2, individuals who reported they were no longer in their original relationship were asked to indicate their reasons for breaking up (e.g., lack of commitment, infidelity, conflict and arguing, etc.). Point-biserial correlations were used to determine the associations between demographic (e.g., income, age), relationship (e.g., dedication, interpersonal violence), and contextual factors (e.g., social support) at Wave 1 and break-up at Wave 2. Results: The most commonly endorsed retrospective reasons for break-up were relationship conflict (53.1%), infidelity (35.9%), sexual satisfaction (34.4%), and lack of commitment (34.4%). Point-biserial correlations showed that couples who had lower levels of income (r = -.36, p < .001) and education (r = -.22, p = .035), who were younger in age (r = -.48, p < .001), and who had been together for shorter durations of time (r = -.50, p < .001) at Wave 1 were more likely to break up by Wave 2. Couples with more previous female sexual partners (r = -.27, p = .008) at Wave 1 were more likely to be broken up by Wave 2, but the number of previous male sexual partners (r = .01, p = .352) was not significant in predicting dissolution. Further, couples with lower levels of relationship dedication (r = -.23, p = .032), higher psychological aggression (r = -.29, p = .005), higher physical aggression (r = -.25, p = .015), and lower social support (r = -.21, p = .041) at Wave 1 were more likely to have ended their relationship by Wave 2. Additionally, our results showed that if either partner had clinical levels of alcohol use (r = -.28, p = .007) at Wave 1, the couple was more likely to break up by Wave 2. Implications: The current study highlighted both retrospective reasons and longitudinal predictors of relationship dissolution for female same-gender couples. There appears to be some overlap between retrospective reasons for break up and prospective predictors for break-up (e.g., commitment), while other retrospective reasons (e.g., conflict and arguing) were not statistically predictive of break-up. Future research is recommended to explore this distinction as well as the causal mechanisms between predictive factors and dissolution. Results may inform intervention efforts to improve relationship stability in female same-gender relationships.