Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Sexual Orientation As a Multidimensional Construct: Outcome Variations in Women's Relationship Functioning across Methodological Contexts (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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628P (WITHDRAWN) Sexual Orientation As a Multidimensional Construct: Outcome Variations in Women's Relationship Functioning across Methodological Contexts

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Amy Wright, PhD, Assistant Professor, Illinois State University, IL
Background and Purpose: The multidimensional construct of sexual orientation has frequently been measured using only singular dimensions within prior relationship research. Relationship outcomes therefore vary widely across studies depending on the methodological approaches in which the measure of sexual orientation is constructed (e.g., sexual partner-based classifications vs. identity-based classifications). As such, a question of methodological validity lingers as it pertains to relationship functioning outcomes: Do sexual identity-based and sexual partner-based classifications serve as valid proxy measures for each other when examining women’s overall relationship functioning? The current study therefore aimed to explore the implication of using different measures of sexual orientation when comparing heterosexual and sexual-minority women (SMW) on a number of variables reflective of relationship functioning (e.g., relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, and relationship commitment).

Methods: This study was open to women 18 years or older currently within a relationship of at least 6 months. Participants completed an online survey, and data were collected using an original, cross-sectional research design. The sample (N = 166) was primarily white (88%) and heterosexual (64%), with an average age of 37 years and an average relationship length of 6 years.

Participants who self-selected “heterosexual/straight” were categorized into the “heterosexual” category, whereas those who self-selected “lesbian,” “gay,” “bisexual,” “queer,” or “same-sex attracted” were combined into the “SMW” category. Participants were also distinguished based on partner gender (e.g., women partnered with women [WPW] vs. women partnered with men [WPM]). Relationship satisfaction was measured using the Relationship Assessment Scale (RAS; Hendrick, 1988). Possible scores ranged from 7 to 35; higher values reflected higher relationship satisfaction. Sexual satisfaction was measured using the Sexual Satisfaction Scale for Women (SSS-W; Meston & Trapnell, 2005). Potential scores ranged from 30 to 150; higher scores suggested greater levels of sexual satisfaction. Relationship commitment was measured using the Commitment subsection of Sternberg’s Triangular Love Scale (STLS; Sternberg, 1988). Possible subscale scores ranged from 85 to 135, with higher scores suggestive of higher levels of commitment.

Results: The sample mean for the RAS was 29.95 (SD = 4.94), 123 (SD = 19.46) for the STLS, and 92.34 (SD = 22.22) for the SSS-W.

Three ANOVAs revealed no significant differences in relationship functioning variables between women based on sexual identity. However, an additional ANOVA revealed that WPW reported significantly higher rates of relationship satisfaction compared to WPM.

Conclusions and Implications: The variability in relationship functioning outcomes demonstrated by this study’s findings speaks to the instability of accurately capturing an individual’s sexual orientation with only one measure. Thus, sexual identity and sexual partnering behavior do not necessarily function as adequate proxies for each other when examining a variety of relationship functioning outcomes. The construct of sexual orientation as it has been historically measured is at odds with how sexual orientation functions for many women. Although exploratory in nature, the findings reported herein suggest that sexual orientation operates distinctively across varying contexts. The utility of accurately capturing sexual orientation data in a multitude of ways which most closely illustrates the study’s underlying purpose is therefore critical.