Marital Strain Increases Psychological Distress for Couples in Both Same-Sex and Different-Sex Marriages, but Women in Different-Sex Marriages Suffer More




Garcia, Michael A.
Umberson, Debra

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



It is well-established that marriage benefits physical and emotional well-being. However, substantial evidence – based almost exclusively on one spouse in heterosexual marriages – demonstrates that marital strain increases psychological distress for married people. In this research brief, PRC graduate student trainee Michael Garcia and PRC director Debra Umberson examine whether and how marital strain reported by both the respondent and his or her spouse is associated with psychological distress and whether differences exist for women and men in lesbian, gay, and heterosexual marriages. They find that people who report higher levels of their own marital strain as well as people whose spouses report higher levels of marital strain experience more psychological distress. They also find that, compared to men in other union types, women married to men report higher levels of distress as a result of their own and their spouse’s marital strain. Women in different-sex marriages also report higher levels of distress compared to women in same-sex marriages, but as a result of self-reported strain only. This research has implications for research on marital dynamics and health as well as on counseling for married heterosexual, lesbian and gay couples.

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