Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trend in Young Adults' Dating Habits, Committed Relationships

Ω

Changes in relationship formation and dissolution in the past 50 years have revealed new patterns in romantic relations among young adults. The U.S. Census indicates that young people are choosing to marry later and cohabitating more often than past generations. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found that people in their 20s are redefining dating by engaging in "stayover relationships," spending three or more nights together each week while maintaining the option of going to their own homes.

"Instead of following a clear path from courtship to marriage, individuals are choosing to engage in romantic ties on their own terms -- without the guidance of social norms," said Tyler Jamison, a researcher in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). "There is a gap between the teen years and adulthood during which we don't know much about the dating behaviors of young adults. Stayovers are the unique answer to what emerging adults are doing in their relationships."

Jamison found that "stayover relationships" are a growing trend among college-aged couples who are committed, but not interested in cohabiting. However, little is known about the effects of stayovers on future commitment decisions or marriage.

"A key motivation is to enjoy the comforts of an intimate relationship while maintaining a high degree of personal control over one's involvement and commitment," said Larry Ganong, professor in HDFS. "We see this interest in personal control nationally in more single adult households, and in the growing phenomenon of 'living apart together' (middle-aged and older monogamous couples who maintain their own households). It may also help explain why marriage is on the decline, particularly among young adults."

Jamison conducted interviews among college-educated adults who were in committed, exclusive relationships. She found that although living together before marriage has become less taboo, many young adults want to avoid the potential negative social consequences of cohabitation.

"As soon as couples live together, it becomes more difficult to break up," Jamison said. "At that point, they have probably signed a lease, bought a couch and acquired a dog, making it harder to disentangle their lives should they break up. Staying over doesn't present those entanglements."

Jamison found that couples who had a stayover routine were content in their relationships, but did not necessarily plan to get married or move in together.

"Many college-aged adults are students who will soon be facing a transition point in their lives," Jamison said. "Most students do not have a definite plan for where they will live or work after graduation, and stayovers are a way for couples to have comfort and convenience without the commitment of living together or having long-term plans."

The study, "We're not living together: Stayover relationships among college-educated emerging adults," is in the current issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sexual Anxiety, Personality Predictors of Infidelity

Ω

People with sexual performance anxiety are more likely to cheat on their partners. That’s just one of the curious findings of a new study by a University of Guelph professor on the factors that predict infidelity.

Men who are risk-takers or easily sexually aroused are also more likely to wander; for women, relationship issues are stronger predictors of unfaithfulness.

The study, published recently in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, is the first to look at how demographics, interpersonal factors and sexual personality affect infidelity.

For both men and women, personality characteristics and interpersonal factors are more relevant predictors than are religion, marital status, education or gender.

“Few studies on infidelity have gone beyond exploring demographics,” said Robin Milhausen, a professor and sexuality researcher in Guelph’s Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition who conducted the study with Kristen Mark and Erick Janssen of Indiana University.

“This research shows that demographic variables may not influence decision-making as much as previously thought — that personality matters more, especially for men.”

The study involved 506 men and 412 women who reported being in monogamous sexual relationships lasting from three months to 43 years. Participants were asked to report on demographic variables such as religion, education and income. They also completed scales that measured sexual personality variables and answered questions about their relationships.

The study found little difference in rates of infidelity reported by men and women (23 and 19 per cent, respectively). But different things predicted the behavior for men and women.

For men, significant predictors of infidelity are personality variables, including propensity for sexual excitation (becoming easily aroused by many triggers and situations) and concern about sexual performance failure.

The latter finding might seem counterintuitive, Milhausen said, but other studies have also found this connection. “People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an ‘out’ if the encounter doesn’t go well – they don’t have to see them again.”

For women, relationship happiness is paramount. Women who are dissatisfied with their relationship are more than twice as likely to cheat; those who feel they are sexually incompatible with their partners are nearly three times as likely.

“All kinds of things predict infidelity,” Milhausen said. “What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong they bounce everything else out of the model. For women, in the face of all other variables, it’s still the relationship that is the most important predictor.”

Milhausen cautions against misinterpreting or overemphasizing the study’s findings. “Taken at face value, this research might seem to just support sexual stereotypes: Women are just concerned about the relationship, and, for men, once a cheater, always a cheater, regardless of their relationship. But the caveat is that there are a lot of variants and factors that are not explained here that might impact whether someone cheats.”

Still, knowing that sexual personality characteristics — and, for women, relationship factors — are strong predictors suggests directions for therapeutic interventions, she said.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Men, women report differences in relationship, sexual satisfaction

Ω


Cuddling and caressing are important ingredients for long-term relationship satisfaction, according to an international study that looks at relationship and sexual satisfaction throughout committed relationships, but contrary to stereotypes, tenderness was more important to the men than to the women.

Also contrary to expectations of the researchers, men were more likely to report being happy in their relationship, while women were more likely to report being satisfied with their sexual relationship. The couples, more than 1,000 from the United States, Brazil, Germany, Japan and Spain, where together an average 25 years.

The study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, is the first to examine sexual and relationship parameters of middle-aged or older couples in committed, long-term relationships. Research efforts to understand the place of sexuality in human lives rarely involves intact couples in ongoing relationships.

"You hear repeated research and commentary about divorce; but it's important to note that though divorce rates are high in the U.S., couples tend to stay married -- more than 50 percent of U.S. couples remain in their first marriage, and that number goes up to 90 percent in Spain," said Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction and lead author of the article. "We know from other research that being in a long-term relationship has some value to health. Perhaps we can learn more about what makes relationships both sustainable and happy."

Participants in the study were 40- to 70-year-old men and their female partners, either married or living together for a minimum of one year. The study included around 200 couples from each country. The men and women answered gender-specific questionnaires and were assured that their responses would not be shared with their partner.

"This study on heterosexual couples provides a basis for future research on sex and gender, such as how same-sex couples may or may not show similarities and differences in relationship and sexual satisfaction," Heiman said.

RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION

For men, relationship happiness was more likely if the man reported being in good health and if it was important to him that his partner experienced orgasm. Surprisingly, frequent kissing or cuddling also predicted happiness in the relationship for men, but not for women. Both men and women reported more happiness the longer they had been together, and if they themselves scored higher on several sexual functioning questionnaires.

Across all five nationalities, for both men and women, the Japanese were significantly happier with their relationships than Americans, and Brazilians and Spanish reported less relationship happiness than Americans.

SEXUAL SATISFACTION

Men and women both were likely to report sexual satisfaction if they also reported frequent kissing and cuddling, sexual caressing by the partner, higher sexual functioning, and if they had sex more frequently. On the other hand, for men, having had more sex partners in their lifetime was a predictor of less sexual satisfaction.

Men did report more relationship happiness in later years, whereas for women, their sexual satisfaction increased over time. Women who had been with their partner for less than 15 years were less likely to report sexual satisfaction, but after 15 years, the percentage went up significantly.

"Possibly, women become more satisfied over time because their expectations change, or life changes with the children grown," Heiman said. "On the other hand, those who weren't so happy sexually might not be married so long."

Compared with the U.S. men, Japanese men reported significantly (2.61 times) more sexual satisfaction in their relationships. For women, Japanese and Brazilian women were more likely to report being satisfied sexually than Americans.

"We recognize that relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction may not be the same thing for all couples, and in all cultures," Heiman said. "Our next step is to understand how one person's health, physical affection and sexual experiences relate to the relationship happiness or sexual satisfaction of his or her partner. So, we hope for more couple-centered than individual-centered understanding on relationship functioning and satisfaction."