Understudied relationships

  • Created by: Hayleigh
  • Created on: 24-01-13 10:07

Understudied relationships, what are they?

Understudied relationships consist of relationships such as

  • Homosexual relationships
  • Computer mediated communication (CMC)
  • Arranged marriages etc.

The term evolved from Wood & Ducks book. Understudied relationships generally fall outside main areas of research in relationships which usually investigate areas such as face-to-face romantic love in Western Cultures. (Eurocentric).

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Homosexual relationships

In the past homosexuality was deemed as a mental disorder, condemed & outlawed, it was in the mid 1970s that this changed.

According to Kitzinger&Coyle research into homosexuality no longer takes a 'Pathology' model (viewing it as an illness) but towards a model which looks at three combined themes

  • Rejection of the idea that a persons sexual orientation is the central principle of their personality. Recognising homosexuals as individuals.
  • Assertion that homosexual relationships are as natural and normal at Hetero
  • Denial that homosexuality poses a threat to society

Bee: "homosexual relationships are more like heterosexual ones than they are different"

Kurdek&Schmitt: Measured love of partners in gay, lesbian, straight cohabiting and straight married couples. Found that all four levels of love was high.

Peplau: Both hetero&homo are long lasting when similar backgrounds and commitment levels are shared

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Homosexual relationships

Kurdek: Satisfaction in both gay and straight relationships is high when the costs are low and rewards are high.

Fletcher: Gay and straight men have similar sex drives and so do straight and lesbian women. Idea that maybe sex drive is a result of gender not sexual orientation.

Liberal humanism risks beta bias. Oversimplifying the two different types of relationships and is at risk of ignoring possibly important differences.

Blumstein&Schwartz: More importance attached to equality of status and power in homo relationships. Lack of power equality= factor in seperation.

Investigated the number of sexual partners outside relationships together > 10 years.

43% of lesbians reported having sex with at least one other person as opposed to 22% wives

94% gay men reported having sex with at least one other person as opposted to 30% husbands

Why is this? Anything to do with the fact that heterosexual couples are married and thus there's a higher sense of loyality and faithfulness.

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Homosexual relationships

Kitzinger&Coyle: Important difference in the two relationships involves society.  The idea that homosexual couples struggle to build and maintain relationships in a society that still today condemns them. An important added social pressure.

Research has helped to, produce a mutual understanding and has medical applications i.e. AIDS.

Difficult to obtain a representative sample due to prejudice and discrimination. Idea of some homosexual being unwilling to take part or taking part in a way that presents them in a positive light.

Alot of research took place > decade ago. Is it still applicable? E.g. civial partnerships (2004), difference or similarity in divorce rate?

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Electronic relationships

As gadgets have evolved so have our ways of communicating and meeting new people, one example is over the internet.

Parks&Floyd: Interviewed 176 members of internet newsgroups. 61% reported forming a new personal relationship of which 98% had communicated directly by email. Whilst new relationships may be formed this way, they are missing a key element.

Paralanguage: i.e. body posture, tone of voice. Behaviours that are often not under conscious control and provide us with an important way to tell the truth and emotional meaning.


  • Proximity: the closer we are to someone > likely we are to form a relationship with them, the same applies to the internet though proximity is determined by frequency of meeting.
  • We seek out those who are similar to us. Hultin found that originally people seek out similar individuals e.g. in terms of ethnic origin. When large differences became apparent communication became shorter and <frequent.
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Electronic relationships


  • People who are more socially anxious and lonely >likely to form internet relationships
  • Internet relatiojnships form >easily and faster and end up being just as real
  • Individuals like eachother better if they meet on the internet first
  • The ability to control interraction fequency

****** relationships:

Cooper&port: internet relationships < the role of physical attributes in attraction and > factors such as proximity&disclosure. Allows people to deviate from constraining gender roles.

Griffiths: Easiest most disinhibiting way to meet new potential parters

  • Purely virtual: sexually explicit for a 'sexual kick'. The two never meet
  • Increasingly sexual contact= photograph and number exchange and meeting
  • Initial offline meeting maintained largely by online contact 
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