UVM psychologists to follow up study of first civil union couples


University of Vermont psychologists Sondra Solomon and Esther Rothblum, who three years ago conducted the first-ever demographic study of gay and lesbian couples joined in civil unions in Vermont, are launching a follow-up study to discover what has changed among study participants since they exchanged vows.

Most recently reported in the September/October 2004 issue of Psychology Today magazine, the first study entailed mailing anonymous questionnaires to 2,300 couples who had civil unions between June 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001 (the first year civil unions were legal in Vermont) and asked them to provide contact information for a married heterosexual sibling and his/her spouse and a lesbian or gay couple in their friendship circle who had not had a civil union. More than 300 civil union couples, 200 married heterosexual couples and 200 gay and lesbian couples responded, sharing their views on monogamy, religion, childrearing and many other topics.

For the follow-up study, the original participants will be mailed or emailed a questionnaire asking about their current level of relationship satisfaction. Their responses will be examined and compared to the original questionnaire to determine what, if any, demographic variables--such as age, income, education and social support--are shared by the happy couples.

"This is the first opportunity to follow up on gay and lesbian couples in civil unions over time," said Rothblum.

Because civil union certificates are matters of public record, it will be possible to compare study participants to the entire population of couples who had civil unions during the legislation's first year, and to determine how many couples have had their unions dissolved. Of civil union couples who remain together, Rothblum and Solomon anticipate that many will be closer to their families due to the increasing legal recognition of their relationships.

The follow-up study will be launched this winter and conducted over a period of three years. As noted in the September issue of the American Psychological Association Monitor, the study will be funded through $15,000 in grants from the American Psychological Foundation's Scrivner Award and Placek Fund, which support research on lesbian, gay and bisexual family psychology and family therapy.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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