Stress and Relationship Functioning in Same-Sex Couples: The Vulnerabilities of Internalized Homophobia and Outness

Casey J. Totenhagen, Ashley Randall, Kayla Lloyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: We examined whether high levels of internalized homophobia and low levels of openness about one's sexual identity (“outness”) were enduring vulnerabilities for same-sex couples' relationship functioning. Background: The vulnerability–stress–adaptation (VSA) model describes how stress can impact relationship functioning. This model has predominately been applied to the study of heterosexual couples, which leaves a dearth of literature on enduring vulnerabilities specific to same-sex couples' relationship functioning. Method: Dyadic longitudinal data from a convenience sample of 81 same-sex couples were collected. Internalized homophobia and outness were assessed at baseline followed by 14-day daily diaries assessing external stress and relationship functioning (i.e., severity of conflict, relationship quality, and commitment). Hypotheses were tested using longitudinal actor–partner interdependence models and multilevel modeling. Results: On days that individuals with high (but not low) levels of internalized homophobia reported greater daily stress, they also reported greater severity of conflict and poorer relationship quality. On days that individuals with low (but not high) outness had a partner report greater daily stress, the individual reported lower commitment. Conclusion: Hypotheses were partially supported; high levels of internalized homophobia and low outness were shown to be potential enduring vulnerabilities for individuals in a same-sex relationship. Implications: Helping same-sex couples cope with their own and their partner's daily stress, as well as working to decrease internalized homophobia while increasing openness about their sexuality, may help to promote relational functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-413
Number of pages15
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • dyadic data
  • relationship quality
  • same-sex couples
  • stress
  • vulnerability–stress–adaptation model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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