Ohio State professor to study same-gender couples

Ohio State professor to study
same-gender couples

Professor Claire Kamp Dush, an associate professor in the Department of Human Sciences in the College of Education and Human Ecology, was recently awarded a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant for $2.3 million dollars. The funds will be used to produce the first population-representative, multi-method, fully-powered study of cohabiting and married sexual and gender minorities and their partners and a comparison sample of cis-gender individuals in different-gender unions.

Families headed by sexual and gender minorities are a growing segment of the population; the number of married or cohabiting same-gender couples in the US increased by 45% between 2008 and 2014. Yet sexual and gender minorities have poorer self-rated health, more acute physical symptoms and chronic conditions, worse health behaviors, and higher rates of depression. Scholars have theories about why this might be, but unfortunately, due to a lack of data from sexual and gender minorities in population health studies, these theories remain untested. . . until now.

One theory that the team, which includes Wendy Manning of the Bowling Green State University as well as JaNelle Ricks, Corinne Reczek, and Hui Zheng from The Ohio State University, wants to test is minority stress theory.

Minority stress theory suggests that health disparities at least partially result when couples in same-gender relationships suffer greater stress because of social stigma and prejudice. When individuals who are sexual and gender minorities enter into intimate relationships, they become vulnerable to unique, stressors because their relationship itself is socially stigmatized and marginalized. This stress can result from stigma-related stressors such as having to conceal the relationship from extended family, or from stress-spillover due, for example, to their partner’s stigma-related stress experienced as a result of being denied a promotion due to their sexual and/or gender minority status.

What are the major aims of the project?

The main project aims to examine 1) the effects of stress from discrimination on physical and mental health and health behaviors, 2) whether a positive relationship can buffer some of the stress due to discrimination, and thus lead to improved health,  and 3) the association between community-level factors including economic disadvantage, access to healthcare, and the sexual and gender minority political climate (i.e. state employment protections) and sexual and gender minorities’ physical and mental health and health behaviors. Finally, the sample will include an oversample of racial and ethnic minorities as well, which will allow the team to also explore intersectional questions, such as – are there additive health gaps due to racial discrimination and sexual and gender minority discrimination.

What is the significance of this project?

This project is significant because much of the research on sexual and gender minorities comes from community data on primarily white samples or population data with very small numbers of race and ethnic minorities. This study will advance science and the health of sexual and gender minorities because it will be the largest population-representative sample of sexual and gender minorities and their spouses/partners. Additionally, this will be the first population-representative study to use purposive sampling to target sexual and gender minorities and their spouses/partners since same-gender marriage has become legal nationwide, and to include an oversample of individuals who are racial and ethnic minorities. The study will include both survey data and time-diary data as well, which is data on the activities that a person does for a 24-hour period. The time-diary data will allow us to examine paid work, housework, and childcare, and compare the division of household and childcare chores in same and different-gender couples.

Professor Claire Kamp DushDr. Kamp Dush says, “This project is such a privilege to carry out. Perhaps most importantly, these data will be publicly available to scholars all over the world. Scholars from a variety of disciplines will use these data to answer critical questions about the family dynamics, health, and stress experiences of same-gender couples. The study is long overdue, but we are ecstatic to be carrying it out at Ohio State now.”


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