One of the prominent topics in scientific research about family, its functions, and structure is gay families. In recent years, due to extensive coverage in media of successive shifts in previously discriminative attitudes of society towards same-sex couples, many scientists commenced inquiries into the mysteries of gay and lesbian families. The article under consideration is a systematic review of the recent scientific literature that addresses the range of issues that same-sex couples face and the peculiarities of their inner structure.
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In their research, Hopkins, Sorensen, and Taylor (2013) focus on literature that enlightens gay and lesbian couples and families in the aspect of their capacity to raise children, social and political stance of such unions. Hopkins et al. (2013) note that most of the researchers are inclined to believe that children in same-sex families possess the same social, emotional, and relationship skills as the ones raised in heterosexual environments. Others, however, disagree by saying that children raised in gay families have an extended capacity for open-mindedness as opposed to gender stereotypes that are unwittingly imbued in the child’s mindset in a ‘traditional’ family (Hopkins et al., 2013). Thus, gender expectations and identity that, as Lamanna, Riedmann, and Stewart (2014) note, transcended the dichotomy of masculinity and feminity are more likely to be discussed in families of gays and lesbians. The research also points out that same-sex couples are likely to guide the process of psychological upbringing through an open discussion because the questions about gender are imminent.
Moreover, according to recent statistical research, the percentage of gay and lesbian couples that are likely to have a child has risen and now topples the same percentage among heterosexual couples (Hopkins et al., 2013). From the standpoint of power distribution within the family, same-sex couples are found to be more often striving towards egalitarian models. Lamanna et al. (2014) believe that economic principles introduced to the decision-making process are beneficial and rewarding. The advantages of this approach seem to manifest in gay couples, as they are reported to employ highly effective negotiation tactics in the sphere of domestic labor distribution.
Moreover, the research found out that gay and lesbian partners tend to practice upbringing within a broader circle of non-blood relatives or community of other gays and lesbians thereby redefining family parenting. The broad specter of healthy practices, however, is undermined by the constant struggle of mimicking and defying the traditional heterosexual family in an aspiration to find or create a new definition of normality. These tensions seem to be fueled by the changing and still controversial public opinion, which may force a family to enclose itself in the circle of a closed community.
An additional focal point of the research became the relationship of the same-sex family, economy, and politics. Hopkins et al. (2013) found that gay couples’ median incomes are less than those of heterosexual ones. Laws and policies currently remain unfair to gay families, but the progress in that sphere is seen as adoption rights and marriage status are now available. The researchers stress the lack of studies in the sphere of the legal status acquisition on gay and lesbian families as such rights became a privilege only recently. In addition, the interview-based research noted that some LGBT proponents consider marriage rights only a small victory in the war for equality and redefinition of family and marriage institutes.
Political pressure also fuels the social controversy and protests against gay and lesbian families as elements that are able to defy and destabilize traditional families as one of the main pillars of a healthy and morally strong society. Queer theorists note that the campaign for much-politicized marriage rights has driven the LGBT movement away from social, personal, and citizen rights that must be granted to gay and lesbian couples, while official status should come second.
In the end, the authors conclude that, in part, the present research serves as further identification of the social importance of the topic and reviews the current trends within queer, gay, and, lesbian studies. They also point out that positive shifts are present in most heterosexual societies and the ongoing integration of same-sex couples in many spheres of life. What should be also focused on is the struggle between conforming and resisting to family standards and the question of whether to invent a new family model (Hopkins et al., 2013).
The Study of Communication and Satisfaction in Marriage
Another valuable addition to the theoretical knowledge base of family and marriage studies is the article by Lavner, Karney, and Bradbury (2016). The researchers conducted a longitudinal study with elements of cross-sectional one in order to determine the nature of the communication-satisfaction relationships in newly-wed couples. The controversy behind the research question is due to the absence of certainty on whether it is positive communication that defines satisfaction with the relationship or is it the opposite.
Previous research outcomes were regarded as mixed. The proper relation between the concepts stayed out of reach of scientists due to many factors such as methodology flaw, small sample, or biased procedure. In addition, various studies revealed different results, which did not let to speak in favor of one or another scenario. To some degree, consistency can be observed in the historical understanding of communication as the key process in relationship functioning. The limitation of the existing body of research has led Lavner et al. (2016) to apply multi-level design to determine the position of communication in marriage.
Thus, in order to establish a sound testing procedure, the researchers incorporated four data streams divided in time from the ethnically diverse low-income sample at the starting point of their married relationship. The researchers measured how marriage satisfaction varied in connection with three types of communication (positive, negative, and effective). In addition, they examined the couple’s self-reported association between communication and marital happiness. The data was gathered through four interviews with a nine-month interval. Each interview was recorded and later observed. During the interview, the husband and wife separately completed surveys assessing their level of satisfaction with marriage through Likert-scale-based questions such as trust to partner, satisfaction with the amount of time spent together, and other items (Lavner et al., 2016, p. 685). Such study design seems to correspond with the basic principles of research design outlined by Lamanna et al. (2014).
The study identified that in both men and women general positivity was associated with better marriage satisfaction. Additionally, more satisfied couples communicate both positively and effectively. The main hypothesis that communication predicts marriage satisfaction yielded no substantial statistical evidence. The results of the four data streams revealed that the significance of the support for either communication or satisfaction as predictors was low in 85% of cases due to the almost equal spread of the answers. However, when the magnitude of the research data was assessed in combination, the researchers found out that satisfaction seems to play a more significant role in predicting positive communication. The research outcomes proved also to be mildly effective at ending the scientific search for establishing a clear link between the notions. As Lavner et al. (2016) note, it was probably due to the fact that proving satisfaction as a predictor of positive communication failed to prove that positive communication was not a predictor of satisfaction.
In conclusion, the authors state that this sphere requires further research that would include and cross-test several predictors in order to broaden the understanding of marriage satisfaction. The research provided consistent evidence of the fact that initial satisfaction gives the marital relationship a ‘boost’ that is able to help establish positive communication, but the processes that could alter or sustain the harmony are yet to be studied.
Apart from communication, there are other essential components of marital relationships that the study seems to omit, which, possibly, made it to some extent, inconclusive. As such, Lamanna et al. (2014), identifies four components of love that are needed to form a healthy relationship such as rapport, self-revelation, mutual dependency, and needs fulfillment (p. 129). Perhaps, adding these factors to the research and choosing a longer time span would shed light upon the secret of a happy and long marriage. In addition, the study of divorce reasons could also help further the knowledge of family happiness.
Hopkins, J. J., Sorensen, A., & Taylor, V. (2013). Same‐sex couples, families, and marriage: Embracing and resisting heteronormativity. Sociology Compass, 7(2), 97-110.
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Lamanna, M. A., Riedmann, A., & Stewart, S. D. (2014). Marriages, families, and relationships: Making choices in a diverse society. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Lavner, J. A., Karney, B. R., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016). Does couples’ communication predict marital satisfaction, or does marital satisfaction predict communication? Journal of Marriage and Family, 78(3), 680-694.