Discuss research into any two types of understudied relationships (e.g. gay and lesbian, "electronic friendships")
Discuss research into any two types of understudied relationships (e.g. gay and lesbian, “electronic friendships”)
Although widely understudied, there are still some studies into gay and lesbian relationships. Davidson (1991) found that gay men appear to desire physical characteristics and status symbols, which are associated with the male role in Western cultures. He found this from studying lonely hearts adverts. However, this is a biased sample as not all gay men and lesbians would advertise with a lonely hearts and maybe only one group do. Therefore, these results cannot be generalised, lacking population validity. Yip (1991) found that many gay men and lesbians feel that sex outside the relationship is not a bad thing as sexual exclusivity is based on a heterosexual blueprint. Therefore, gay and lesbian relationships have a different set of “rules” to heterosexual relationships. Gay men are discovered to have the most frequent sex of all cohabiting couples, at least for the first two years of the relationship. However, as these findings were drawn from surveys, the results are unreliable due to factors such as social desirability bias. Gay men may feel they have to live up to a reputation and not tell the truth in the surveys.
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Blumstein & Schwartz (1983) found that 48% of lesbians and 36% of gay couples broke up within two years compared with 29% of heterosexual cohabiters and 14% of married heterosexual couples. This may be due to factors such as gay and lesbian couples being under more pressure and strain to break up or that heterosexual couples face more barriers to end the relationship, such as children, costs and pressures from family or friends to stay together. Homosexual couples are also more likely to remain friends after the break-up of the relationship. This may be due to more amicable break-ups as they may have more in common as they are the same gender.
However, there are several criticisms into gay and lesbian relationships research. Although this is changing, there is not enough research to draw conclusions. This limited research also quickly becomes out of date. This is due to the rapid change in society’s attitude towards gay and lesbian relationships. For example, they are now able to enter into civil partnerships. The research has also got biased samples: the people involved are the ones happy to come forward and talk openly about their relationship. Therefore, there are many people who may not feel comfortable coming forward and this group remain unspoken for. Research also has a heterosexual bias as people may assume that what is important in a heterosexual relationship is also important in homosexual ones. Generalisations presume homogeneity, assuming everyone is the same and not allowing for individual differences within the gay and lesbian community.
Another type of understudied relationship is electronic relationships. Research has shown that people who come correspond over the internet have different views of the nature of their relationship. Chenault (1998) “The case of Vicky” showed that Vicky exchanged intimate and increasingly explicit emails with a work colleague. However, in face-to-face encounters, nothing changed. This shows people may find it easier to be more open online as the computer acts as a buffer. Duck (1999) suggested electronic relationships could be positive for people who are shy, opening up opportunities to meet new people. McKenna & Yeal (1999) found that socially anxious people tended to form intimate relationships via the internet. However, these two studies suggest that all shy people want to form intimate relationships, which may not be true. It also suggests that electronic relationships allow shy people to be more confident but this may hold them back from developing their social skills. Furthermore, it is very easy to deceive people in electronic relationships. In the case of JennyMUSH (Reid, 1998), a Psychology student set up a forum for victims of sexual abuse or assault. However, a user began to virtually taunt the others in violent terms and obscene messages. McKinney (1987) discovered that women in particular presented themselves as more confident and assertive.
However, the study of electronic relationships is still relatively new and so there is not enough research to draw any firm conclusions. A lot of the studies also have research bias as they are mostly conducted by surveys, meaning the results may not be reliable due to factors such as social desirability bias. The sames are also biased as it relies on a specific group of people and so may not be typical of the whole population. Lots of internet relationships turn into face-to-face relationships. Therefore, some of the research may only be telling us about the formation of relationships as very few people conduct a relationship wholly electronically.