Monday, January 6, 2020

Waist to hip ratio and breast size modulate the processing of female body silhouettes: An EEG study

Waist to hip ratio and breast size modulate the processing of female body silhouettes: An EEG study. Farid Pazhoohi, Joana Arantes, Alan Kingstone, Diego Pinal. Evolution and Human Behavior, January 7 2020.

Abstract: Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and breast size are considered important biological features defining female body attractiveness; but their neurophysiological correlates remain largely unknown. To shed light on this issue, behavioral and electroencephalographic responses were recorded while healthy heterosexual men and women completed an oddball task, which was then followed by an attractiveness judgement task. In both cases participants were presented with female body forms that combined 0.6, 0.7 or 0.8 WHRs with small or large breast sizes. Brain activity dynamics were explored using temporal principal component analysis of the event-related potentials data. Variance in the data was explained mostly by eight temporal factors for the oddball task and six for the attractiveness judgement task. Lower WHRs seemed to gather larger processing resources than higher WHRs at early perceptual-related processes during the oddball task. The less attractive WHRs and breast sizes, in contrast, seemed to boost allocation of resources later in the processing stream, which may be due to a negativity bias enhancing evaluation and decision-making processes. This inference is supported by results from the attractiveness judgement task, although the observer's gender may also play a role. Finally, LORETA analysis of the temporal factors indicate that variations in WHR may modulate activation of frontal regions, such as the anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortex, that are related with reward processing and decision-making; while variations in breast size may influence activity in posterior parietal regions involved in human body perception. This paper highlights the biological importance of female body physical features in defining attractiveness, and the neurophysiological correlates that are implicated.

Keywords: Waist to hip ratioBreast sizeAttractivenessNeural correlatesEEG

Men looking at women... The contrapposto pose was perceived as more attractive than the standing pose:
Waist-to-Hip Ratio as Supernormal Stimuli: Effect of Contrapposto Pose and Viewing Angle. Farid Pazhoohi. Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 18 2019.

Behavioral display of lumbar curvature in response to the opposite sex. Zeynep Şenveli Bilkent University, Graduate Program in Neuroscience - Master's degree thesis.

Reaching Further Back in Evolutionary Time for the Origins of REM Sleep: Lizards have it too

What Is REM Sleep? Mark S. Blumberg et al. Current Biology, Volume 30, Issue 1, 6 January 2020, Pages R38-R49.

For many decades, sleep researchers have sought to determine which species ‘have’ rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In doing so, they relied predominantly on a template derived from the expression of REM sleep in the adults of a small number of mammalian species. Here, we argue for a different approach that focuses less on a binary decision about haves and have nots, and more on the diverse expression of REM sleep components over development and across species. By focusing on the components of REM sleep and discouraging continued reliance on a restricted template, we aim to promote a richer and more biologically grounded developmental–comparative approach that spans behavioral, physiological, neural, and ecological domains.

Reaching Further Back in Evolutionary Time for the Origins of REM Sleep

There is broad consensus today that both mammals and birds
exhibit REM sleep. If this consensus is correct, we would next
want to know how the similar sleep patterns in such distantly
related groups evolved. Mammals and birds have not shared a
common ancestor for over 300 million years. Did REM sleep
evolve independently in the mammalian and avian lineages, or
was REM sleep present in a common ancestor? Researchers
have long tried to answer this question by recording sleep
behavior and brain activity in non-avian reptiles, amphibians,
and fishes. Unfortunately, this work has often yielded contradictory results [110–112].
Two recent studies in lizards suggest that contradictions in the
earlier literature reflect genuine diversity in the way sleep manifests across reptiles. Shein-Idelson and colleagues [18] recently
reported the existence of REM sleep in the Australian bearded
dragon. Brain activity in this sleeping lizard alternates with astonishing regularity — every 80 seconds — between equal-length
periods composed of sharp waves and wake-like brain activity
with isolated eye movements (called ‘eye twitches’) under closed
eyelids. Limb twitches were not reported. Shortly after this initial
description of REM-like sleep in the dragon, these findings were
replicated in the same species by another research group [113].
This second team also found that another lizard, the tegu (Salvator merianae), exhibits a REM-like sleep state, including distinct
brain activity associated with eye movements (rare limb twitches
were observed but were not unambiguously related to the state).
However, the two species showed marked differences in the
REM-like sleep state. Whereas brain activity in the dragon was
characterized by high power across a broad range of frequencies (10–30 Hz), similar to that observed during wakefulness, brain activity in the tegu exhibited a distinct 15-Hz peak
not found during wake. Moreover, in contrast to the precisely
regular alternation between sleep states in dragons, tegus
showed no such regularity.
Although the reasons for the stark differences in the two lizards
are unknown, the studies further underscore the challenge of
finding consensus on the defining features of REM sleep: if these
two lizard species exhibit such diversity, what should we expect
as more reptiles are studied? Will their sleep patterns converge
on a shared set of characteristics that resemble REM sleep in
mammals and birds? And how should we interpret previous
studies that failed to detect a REM-like state in crocodilians,
the closest living relatives to birds, and in turtles, the sister
group to birds and crocodilians [110,111]? Although it is possible
that the earlier studies in crocodilians and turtles were somehow
flawed, we should not simply ignore these exceptions. In the
end, when attempting to trace the evolution of REM sleep, we
must account for the full taxonomic diversity of sleep and its
seemingly patchy phylogenetic distribution.
But now, again, yet another recent paper claims to have
pushed the evolutionary origins of REM and non-REM sleep
even further back in time — to 450 million years ago. Using
larval zebrafish (Danio rerio), Leung and colleagues [9] developed an impressive whole-body fluorescence method to measure neural activity throughout the brain of these transparent
animals while restrained in agar. In addition to brain activity,
they measured muscle activity, eye movements, and heart
rate. Two sleep states were reported: the first state, most
clearly defined after sleep deprivation, is characterized by
synchronous bursts of activity alternating with periods of
silence in the dorsal pallium (a homologue of neocortex), reminiscent of the bursts of activity during mammalian and avian
non-REM sleep (albeit on a much slower timescale). The onset
of the second spontaneous state is characterized by a single
contraction of the trunk muscles lasting 10–15 seconds and a
single, prolonged (up to 5 min) burst of activity that propagates
through the central nervous system. The authors call this state
propagating wave sleep (PWS). It should be noted that the longlasting muscle contractions that occur at the onset of brain
activation are unlike the brief twitches that characterize
mammalian REM sleep. Also, brain activity after a burst in the
zebrafish was suppressed below waking levels for more than
20 minutes. Another peculiarity is that rapid eye movements
did not occur during spontaneous PWS, even though the eyes
moved freely during wakefulness. Thus, although these bursts
of activation are fascinating, it is unclear if and how they relate
to REM sleep in mammals and birds.
Additional hints suggest that components of REM sleep
emerged even farther back in evolutionary time. For example,
a variety of insects — from larval flies to adult bees — twitch their
antennae during states that resemble sleep [114–117]. But such
observations alone do not constitute clear evidence of homology
between invertebrate and vertebrate sleep states. After all, not all
movements during sleep are twitches; nor do we have sufficient
information about the nervous systems of sleeping insects to understand what these twitch-like movements represent.
Twitching is also apparent in resting cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis), but in a way that is remarkable and unique. When awake and
swimming, cuttlefish exhibit choreographed patterns of coloration for communication and camouflage [118]. The changes
in color and pattern are mediated by chromatophores —
pigment-containing skin cells that are controlled by striated
muscle. While apparently asleep, cuttlefish initially rest motionless on the seafloor with their pupils constricted and their coloration cryptically matching the surrounding substrate [119,120].
Such periods of quiet rest are occasionally interrupted by prolonged (2–3 minute) bouts of twitching of the tentacles, eyes,
and — astoundingly — the chromatophores, resulting in rapid
changes in coloration and patterning that announce, rather
than conceal, their presence (similar patterns of chromatophore
activation during apparent sleep have been reported in the
octopus [121,122]). Although arousal thresholds have not been
assessed to rule out the possibility that the cuttlefish behaviors
reflect brief awakenings, the patterns of chromatophore activation bear little resemblance to what is observed when cuttlefish
are clearly awake. If, in fact, they are asleep, further work on cuttlefish may provide novel insights into the evolution of REM-like
sleep states, especially given the independent evolution of complex brains, behavior, and cognition in cephalopods [123]. When
combined with research on relatively ‘simple’ mollusks [124], this
research raises the hope of revealing the independent and
convergent evolution of individual components that comprise
REM sleep.

Fast predictions are more optimistic than slow ones; when people think about their personal future, the first response is optimistic, which only later may be followed by a second step of reflective realism

Sjåstad, Hallgeir, and Roy Baumeister. 2020. “Fast Optimism, Slow Realism? Causal Evidence for a Two-step Model of Future Thinking.” PsyArXiv. January 6. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Future optimism is a widespread phenomenon, often attributed to the psychology of intuition. However, causal evidence for this explanation is lacking, and sometimes cautious realism is found. One resolution is that thoughts about the future have two steps: A first step imagining the desired outcome, and then a sobering reflection on how to get there. Four pre-registered experiments supported this two-step model, showing that fast predictions are more optimistic than slow predictions. The total sample consisted of 2,116 participants from USA and Norway, providing 9,036 predictions. In Study 1, participants in the fast-response condition thought positive events were more likely to happen and that negative events were less likely, as compared to participants in the slow-response condition. Although the average prediction was optimistically biased in both conditions, future optimism was significantly stronger among fast responders. Participants in the fast-response condition also relied more on intuitive heuristics (CRT). Studies 2 and 3 focused on future health problems (e.g., getting a heart attack or diabetes), in which participants in the fast-response condition thought they were at lower risk. Study 4 provided a direct replication, with the additional finding that fast predictions were more optimistic only for the self (vs. the average person). The results suggest that when people think about their personal future, the first response is optimistic, which only later may be followed by a second step of reflective realism. Current health, income, trait optimism, perceived control and happiness were negatively correlated with health-risk predictions, but did not moderate the fast-optimism effect.

Internationally, sex work research, public opinion, policy, laws, and practice are predicated on the assumption that commercial sex is a priori sold by women and bought by men; that's a mistake

Sex counts: An examination of sexual service advertisements in a UK online directory. Sarah Kingston  Nicola Smith. The British Journal of Sociology, January 5 2020.

Abstract: Internationally, sex work research, public opinion, policy, laws, and practice are predicated on the assumption that commercial sex is a priori sold by women and bought by men. Scarce attention has been devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) sex working as well as women who pay for sex. This is as much an empirical absence as it is a theoretical one, for the ideological claim that women comprise the “vast majority” of sex workers is rarely, if ever, exposed to empirical scrutiny. Focusing on the UK, we address this major gap in evidence in order to challenge the gendered and heterosexist logics that underpin contemporary debates. We do so by presenting large‐scale data gained from the quantitative analysis of 25,511 registered member profiles of an online escort directory. Our findings point to heterogeneity rather than homogeneity in the contemporary sex industry including in terms of gender identity, sexual orientation, and advertised client base. For example, while two‐thirds of advertisements self‐identify as “Female,” one in four are listed as “Male;” less than half list their sexual orientation as “Straight;” and nearly two‐thirds advertise to women clients. Our study thus challenges prevailing heteronormative assumptions about commercial sex, which erase LGBTQ sex workers and other non‐normative identities and practices, and which we argue have important political, practical, and theoretical consequences.


Our research points to a diversity of identities and practices in the contemporary sex industry. These empirical findings are new, surprising, and perhaps even counter-intuitive in the context of widely held assumptions about the “types” of identities and practices involved in commercial sex. For instance, the End Demand (2016, p. 2) campaign group has called for the UK Parliament to criminalize the purchase of sexual services, asserting that “the majority of people exploited through prostitution are women and girls and the majority of those who pay for sex are
men.”14  In contrast to this stereotype of the female worker and male client, our data shows that a sizable minority
of escort profiles are listed as “Male,” that many do not self-identify as “Straight,” and that the majority explicitly
advertise to women and couples. To be clear, our findings do not show that the sex industry is not a gendered industry, for it is indeed the case that the majority of escort profiles were listed as “Female,” just as the majority also
advertised to men. What they do suggest, though, is that the sex industry may be gendered in rather more complex ways than is conventionally assumed, for sexual desire does not only exist in its heterosexual articulations.

To focus only, or even primarily, on the female worker/male client binary is to overlook the potential for divergent identities, activities, and expressions in the contemporary sex industry—and this binary is in turn underpinned by “vast majority” claims. Clearly, it is impossible to do justice to the rich complexity of performances, experiences and embodiments involved in the online sex industry in a single quantitative study. Our figures therefore cannot be assumed to reflect the transparent “reality” of online sex work. Nevertheless, our research challenges prevailing stereotypes of the sex industry as a monolithic bloc of uniform advertised or offered practices, and is instead suggestive of the high levels of diversification, specification, and specialization that have come to represent the hallmarks of contemporary capitalism (Phipps, 2014).

These original findings are significant in highlighting the need to rethink popular beliefs and prejudices about sex workers and their clients. As we have discussed, it is precisely the potential for complexity that scholarly and political debates about commercial sex often obscure. Most notably, they continue to reproduce age-old sexist stereotypes that women are sexual objects and men are sexual subjects. As noted earlier, anti-trafficking agendas are organized around the notion that trafficked “victims” of prostitution are women. This can be seen in both academic debates and in the activities of NGOs and campaign groups, such as the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women. In the UK, as well as internationally, calls to follow a “Swedish” or “Nordic” model of criminalization appeal directly to constructions of sex workers as victimized women and their clients as predatory men. The Swedish Institute, in full support of the ban on purchasing sexual services, has argued that “it is shameful and unacceptable that, in a gender equal society, men obtain casual sexual relations with women in return for payment” (Swedish Institute, 2010, p. 4). Likewise, across European political forums MEPs can be seen to perpetuate these gendered assertions in the context of debates on the trafficking for sexual exploitation. For instance, Mary Honeyball MEP and Vice Chair for the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality has claimed that “the most effective way of combating the trafficking of women and under-age females for sexual exploitation
and improving gender equality is the model implemented in Sweden, Iceland and Norway (the so-called Nordic model)” (Honeyball, 2014, p. 1).

Notably, it is not only national policy but also local-level practice that can be shaped by problematic constructions of sex workers. In the UK, the systematic erasure of LGBTQ sex workers in political discourse means that
there are few projects commissioned to provide support services to them (Bryce et al., 2015). There is therefore
“an urgent need for policy revisions to ensure that future provision is inclusive, relevant to the needs of all sex
workers and recognizes the rights to public protection for all” (2015, p. 252). Given that many on- and off-street
physical spaces are frequently dominated by cis female sex workers, other sex workers may feel excluded from
these spaces and the projects that provide support services there, hence why they may advertise online in large
numbers. It is often these visible parts of the industry that are assumed to reflect the industry as a whole (Scoular,
2015), and these assumptions not only obscure the complexity of the industry but also materialize in the support services commissioned to provide outreach for sex workers. This highlights the need for political debates
and policy practice to recognize and respond to the diversity and complexity in the industry that our study has
The heteronormative imaginaries of sex work, which are propped up by empirical claims, thus play out as
material realities that not only shape public policy and practice but also the everyday lives of sex workers and
their clients. Importantly, they work to increase the visibility of some—often the most vulnerable, such as street
workers—while creating invisibilities for others. For example, research by Kingston, Hammond, and Redmand
(2020) shows that women clients feel they are ignored by policy makers because of their assumed non-existence,
in turn meaning that they can more easily evade police detection and prosecution in countries that have created a
criminal offence of paying for sex. To be able to “go under the radar” is particularly important in contexts such as
the UK, where legislation has made it a criminal offence to purchase sexual services from a forced or coerced person. That women in the sex industry are being rendered visible only in certain types of ways—as street workers,
as victims of sex trafficking, but never as clients—not only reflects gendered, racialized, and classed hierarchies
but also serves to produce them. It is poor and migrant women, after all, that dominant discourses focus on—and
it is poor and migrant women who are in turn being targeted by the police, as the English Collective of Prostitutes
(2016) repeatedly report. This further underscores the need for political debates and policy interventions to challenge heteronormative logics and, in so doing, to resist the denigration and criminalization of sex workers that
such logics help to produce.

5.1 | Limitations

Although our original findings are important in challenging the dominant stereotypes that continue to frame
scholarly and political debates, there are several limitations with our research. First, our findings relate only to a
specific period of time. We attempted to account for inactive profiles, but it is likely that our 2-month window of
escort activity did not capture sporadic users: those who “dip in” and “dip out” of sex working. Commercial sex has
been described as “the ultimate precarious labor” (Sanders et al., 2016, p. 16) due to its high levels of part-time,
casualized, temporary, and contingent work, and it is not uncommon for some sex workers to leave the industry
and then return months or years later due to a change in their financial, occupational, or personal circumstances.
Second, the findings from this study are taken from just one online directory. There are many other advertising sites and agencies that cater for this wide-ranging market, and many sex workers do not advertise online.
The “digital divide” is well documented, as those who may be economically disadvantaged or computer illiterate
may be unable to engage online (Bolger, Davis, & Rafaeli, 2003). Street sex workers can be difficult to locate
online because they often do not have access to the internet or mobile enabled devices. Likewise, sex workers
are not necessarily limited to one sex scene, with some working on the street and also from their own homes.
Thus, our findings cannot be extrapolated to make concrete assertions about the rest of the UK sex industry.
Nor does the data provided give an indication of the aggregate volume of sale and purchase of sexual services
across the UK—although it should be noted that because of the hidden and secretive nature of the sex industry
globally, it is not possible to provide such data. As outlined earlier, our aim has not been to produce “representative” findings as this would rest upon problematic assumptions about the sameness and replicability of human
Third, just as our sample did not include all sex workers in the UK, so too it cannot be assumed that all profiles
in our sample were from bona fide sex workers. Previous research has ascertained that people often engage in
“identity performance” and “impression management” whilst engaging online (Boyd & Jeffrey, 2006). For some, creating a fantasy online personality can produce feelings of liberation from the constraints of physical form, or a mode of “empowering exhibitionism” (De Laat, 2008, p. 68). Agents and managers may also post profiles of particular escorts but then inform clients that this escort is not available but that another is; we call these impersonated sex workers. Others may advertise sexual services online, but this does not “convert” into clients or service types. Thus, some advertisements may only reflect someone’s ambition to sex work rather than its actual practice; we call these prospective sex workers. Furthermore, sex workers who advertise online often have multiple profiles to feed into niche markets (for example, by advertising as a dominatrix who performs sadomasochism and bondage on one profile, whilst advertising more mainstream services on another) (Pruitt & Krull, 2010). The use of multiple profiles can therefore itself operate as an effective advertising tool, as it enables escorts to access a wide range
of clients.

Fourth, given that escorts' advertisements cannot be assumed to be "real" (since advertising is not the same as selling), we do not claim to have captured the “reality” of sex working online. Yet this does not mean that escorts' advertisements can simply be dismissed as “fake” either. Indeed, as post-positivist researchers, we reject outright any notion that there is some kind of neat division between “authentic” and “fabricated” identities, which overlooks the performative character of all identities (Butler, 1990). Nor do we regard sexuality as a “thing” that lies beneath or beyond social existence and which either hides or declares its “reality” (Foucault, 1978; Bernstein, 2007). For example, if someone sets up an escort profile in order to articulate their fantasies surrounding sex work (but they never actually engage in sex work), is this not in itself a meaningful performance? Is fantasy not in itself “real” in some senses? If we accept that sexual subjectivities are performed in virtual spaces as well as physical ones, and if we also accept that the boundaries of what does and does not constitute “sex work” are always blurred (Cabezas, 2009), then online advertisements are clearly worthy of attention in their own right.

Fifth, the study was very much bounded by the search engine tools available to us. Given that profiles were organized according to pre-set categories, these may not have reflected the self-identities of those advertising. For example, the gender options available were “Male,” “Female,” “Couple MF,” “Couple MM,” “Couple FF,” “TV/TS Male,” “TV/TS Female,” “TV/TS Couple MF,” “TV/TS Couple MM,” and “TV/TS Couple FF,” with no reference to alternate identities such as non-binary, genderqueer, intergender, or agender. As noted, people often engage in identity performance through sex work, and so the gender and/or sexual identities that people perform when escorting cannot be assumed to match up neatly with the sexual and/or gender identities they perform in other contexts of their lives. The data thus inevitably obscure a far more complex and fluid picture than can be captured through search engine results.

Our study thus highlights the need for future research to further deepen and expand the analysis offered here. Given that our research was limited to one online UK-based directory at a particular moment in time, future studies could examine a larger number of international sites (see, for instance, Minichello & Scott, 2017) to interrogate whether the patterns we identify here play out in other national or local contexts. However, researchers must recognize that sex workers migrate extensively for sex work (Agustín, 2006; Van Blerk, 2008), and thus may advertise on multiple sites. Similarly, longitudinal research could explore how the configuration of the online sex industry shifts over time, for example in terms of the geographical distribution of escort profiles.

The research also points to other areas of enquiry that were beyond the scope of our study but that nevertheless warrant further analysis. Given that we found many couples advertising online, further studies on couples are needed. Although research has identified the experience of sex workers who provide services to couples and couples who have purchased sex, this has been somewhat limited (Kingston et al., 2020). In addition, the data on the geographical distribution of sex work online points to the need for more research on rural parts of the UK and elsewhere. It is hardly surprising that research has focused on major cities given the heightened visibility of the industry (together with increased access to support services) in city centers. Although online research such as ours does not completely overlook sex workers who provide services in more rural areas, it would be fruitful for future studies to interrogate sex working in rural communities. In addition to further quantitative analyses, qualitative and/or mixed methods research could be undertaken to explore these complexities and nuances in more depth. Further quantitative analysis of advertisement sites would also be useful, for example to explore the relationships between particular variables (such as those between age, sexuality, and rates of pay; whether people charge more per hour in the south than in the north of the country; and whether those who advertise as male, female,or non-binary escorts are more likely to offer specific services).

Finally, qualitative research could investigate whether advertisements translate into bookings, although this would need to consider the diversity of sex worker practices and experiences. For example, building up a client base takes time and, whilst a person might not be providing sexual services at the time of the research, this does not mean that they will not provide sexual services at some point. Kingston et al.’s (2020) research on women who pay for sexual services alone and as part of a couple, has shown that many men sex workers work part time and inconsistently, and thus may be misinterpreted as “bogus” sex workers when their inconsistent work patterns are not taken into account. (We define a bogus sex worker as someone who does not intend to sell, sexual services, nor works in the industry as an agent or manager, but creates a bogus profile for personal gratification or in order to victimize or exploit sex workers). Like any other area of research, it is possible that some of our sample were bogus or impersonated sex workers, and others were career sex workers (who work full time as sex workers), parttime sex workers (who have another part-time or full-time job), yoyo sex workers (who dip in and out of sex work) and prospective sex workers (who show ambition to sex work, but their adverts do not translate into bookings).

Qualitative research could also explore user activity (e.g. profile log ins over a 1-5 year period) to interrogate if and how this reflects particular types of sex working (e.g. career sex work), patterns of sex working (e.g. working ondoors when not online), and personal circumstances (e.g. caring responsibilities, long-term illness).

Negative communication between spouses can be difficult to change, does not necessarily lead to more satisfying relationships when it is changed, & does not always predict distress in the first place

Research on Marital Satisfaction and Stability in the 2010s: Challenging Conventional Wisdom. Benjamin R. Karney  Thomas N. Bradbury. Journal of Marriage and Family, January 5 2020.

Abstract: Although getting married is no longer a requirement for social acceptance, most people do marry in their lifetimes, and couples across the socioeconomic spectrum wish their marriages to be satisfying and long lasting. This review evaluates the past decade of research on the determinants of satisfaction and stability in marriage, concluding that the scholarship of the past 10 years has undermined three assumptions that were formerly accepted as conventional wisdom. First, research exploiting methods such as latent class growth analyses reveal that, for most couples, marital satisfaction does not decline over time but in fact remains relatively stable for long periods. Second, contrary to predictions of behavioral models of marriage, negative communication between spouses can be difficult to change, does not necessarily lead to more satisfying relationships when it is changed, and does not always predict distress in the first place. Third, dyadic processes that are reliably adaptive for middle‐class and more affluent couples may operate differently in lower income couples, suggesting that influential models of marriage may not generalize to couples living in diverse environments. Thus, the accumulated research of the past 10 years indicates that the tasks of understanding and promoting marital satisfaction and stability are more complex than we appreciated at the start of the decade, raising important questions that beg to be answered in the years ahead.

Do Conclusions About Marriage Generalize?

Income as a Moderator

Twenty-five years ago, the vast majority of
research on marriage had been conducted on
samples composed primarily of middle-class,
college-educated, mostly White couples (Karney & Bradbury, 1995). In the intervening years,
the profile of the typical sample in marital
research has expanded, but samples of convenience continue to dominate, reflecting a
widespread assumption about the dynamics of
marriage: What is true for the narrow slice of
couples that have been studied extensively is
likely to be true for the more diverse couples that
lie outside the sampling frame of most studies.
During the past decade, this assumption has
been questioned by burgeoning lines of research
on Hispanic marriages (e.g., Orengo-Aguayo,
2015), African American marriages (e.g.,
Cutrona, Russell, Burzette, Wesner, & Bryant,
2011; Stanik, McHale, & Crouter, 2013), and
most recently same-sex marriages (e.g., Chen &
van Ours, 2018) to mention only a few dimensions of diversity that the field has explored. To
illustrate the consequences of broader sampling
for deepening our understanding of marriage,
we devote this section to reviewing one dimension of diversity that was examined at length
during the past 10 years: income.
The possibility that marital process may vary
at different levels of income is worth highlighting because, a decade ago, this possibility was
distinctly overlooked. When the federal government launched the Healthy Marriage Initiative
in the early 2000s, the goal of the program
was to promote stronger, more stable relationships among lower income couples (Office of
Family Assistance, 2012). Yet at the time data
on the relationships of lower income couples
were scarce. Nevertheless, the development
and implementation of skills-based relationship
education programs proceeded apace, guided
by the assumption that the conclusions of prior
research on relationship processes among relatively affluent, mostly White couples would
generalize to the lower income, more diverse
communities targeted by the new initiative.
Within the past decade, the results of nationwide, multisite, longitudinal evaluations of
these programs were released, and they were
not encouraging. Despite their great cost and the
sincere efforts of well-intentioned administrators and educators across the country, the impact
of relationship education on the well-being and
stability of lower income couples proved to
be negligible (Lundquist et al., 2014; Wood,
Moore, Clarkwest, & Killewald, 2014). Abandoning the assumption that the foundations
of satisfying and stable marriage are common
across income groups, leading observers called
for research directly examining how basic processes contributing to successful intimacy may
in fact vary among different segments of society
(Johnson, 2012; McNulty, 2016).

Empirical advances

Research heeding this call during the past
decade has revealed numerous ways that
basic marital processes vary across levels of
socioeconomic status. What does not vary
is the value of marriage itself. Although
rates of marriage are substantially lower in
lower income communities than in more
affluent communities, marriage remains
a cherished goal across income groups
(Garrett-Peters & Burton, 2015; Scott, Schelar,
Manlove, & Cui, 2009; Trail & Karney, 2012).
Instead, income groups can be distinguished by
the sorts of challenges couples face in attempting to reach that goal. Lower income couples,
similar to lower income individuals, report
greater mental health problems, higher stress,
and, not surprisingly, more financial strain than
their higher income peers (Maisel & Karney,
2012). When asked directly about challenges
in their marriages, lower income couples are
more likely to identify finances and substance
abuse, rather than communication and household chores, as their most salient sources of
conflict (Jackson et al., 2016; Trail & Karney,
2012). To the extent that the problems of lower
income couples are more severe, their marital
interactions are likely to be more difficult as
well (Williamson, Hanna, Lavner, Bradbury, &
Karney, 2013). Indeed, Cutrona et al. (2003),
drawing on observer ratings of videotaped interactions between spouses, showed that couples
living in more disadvantaged neighborhoods
expressed less warmth with each other than
couples living in higher income neighborhoods.
Do their greater challenges mean that lower
income couples are less satisfied with their
relationships than more affluent couples? In
fact, lower income couples are not less satisfied
with their relationships on average, despite their
higher divorce rates and the more severe difficulties they encounter. Although perceptions of
greater financial strain have been consistently
associated with lower relationship satisfaction
(e.g., Conger & Conger, 2008), household
income and relationship satisfaction are unrelated (Hardie & Lucas, 2010; Maisel & Karney,
2012). Yet poorer couples do experience their
marriages differently than wealthier couples.
Longitudinal research tracking marital satisfaction across the first years of marriage reveals
that, although levels and slopes of marital
satisfaction do not differ between more and
less wealthy couples, poorer couples report
significantly greater variability in their marital
satisfaction across time (Jackson, Krull, Bradbury, & Karney, 2017). In other words, lower
income couples experience their relationships
as more turbulent than affluent couples, whose
greater resources presumably buffer them from
stressful events and crises (cf. Henry, Sheffield
Morris, & Harrist, 2015).
To the extent that income has direct associations with constructs central to influential
models of successful marriage, such as mental
health, stress, marital interaction, and trajectories of marital satisfaction, then the associations
among these constructs are likely to vary across
levels of income as well. During the past decade,
analyses of diverse samples that directly compare patterns of associations among more or
less affluent couples confirm this prediction. For
example, analyses of survey data from Florida,
Texas, California, and New York reveal that
stress and mental health account for significantly
more variance in the relationship satisfaction of
poorer couples than wealthier couples (Maisel
& Karney, 2012). When couples with more
access to resources confront stress or struggle
with mental health problems, they have options
for protecting their relationships (e.g., by paying
for assistance or counseling) that poorer couples
facing the same challenges do not.
Ross, Karney, Nguyen, and Bradbury (2019)
went further, showing that even basic marital
processes considered fundamental to successful marriage can have categorically different
implications for more or less affluent couples.
Their focus was the demand-withdraw pattern
of marital interaction in which one partner, seeking change, makes a request, while the other,
favoring the status quo, deflects or avoids. The
ensuing cycle has been consistently associated
with declines in marital satisfaction in numerous
studies (e.g., Eldridge, Sevier, Jones, Atkins, &
Christensen, 2007) and across multiple cultures
(Christensen, Eldridge, Catta-Preta, Lim, &
Santagata, 2006). Yet the negative implications
of the demand-withdraw pattern rest on the
assumption that, when this pattern arises, the
change at issue is possible. What makes the
pattern so aversive for both sides is the idea that
the partner requesting change can reasonably
expect the other partner to give in and that the
partner resisting change could accede to the
other partner’s request but chooses not to. What
if the requested change is impossible, as it may
be for lower income couples with less control
over their circumstances? A response (withdrawal) that is maladaptive for the middle-class
couples that comprise most of the samples in
research on marital satisfaction may be adaptive
for lower income couples with fewer options
and resources. Indeed, across two longitudinal
studies that included observational assessments
of marital interactions, Ross et al. (2019) found
that, whereas engaging in the demand-withdraw
pattern predicts lower marital satisfaction for
wealthier couples, the same pattern predicts
more stable marital satisfaction for poorer
Such findings begin to make sense of the
failure of programs guided by research on upper
income couples to improve the outcomes of
the lower income couples to which they were
targeted: The specific challenges and constraints
that confront lower income couples may moderate or negate the impact of interventions
that might be helpful in other circumstances.
Analyses of data from the Building Strong
Families study, an evaluation of interventions designed to encourage marriage among
unmarried lower income parents, support this
perspective. Although the evaluation showed
that the programs had no effects on relationship
quality or rates of transitioning into marriage
(Wood et al., 2014; Wood, McConnell, Moore,
Clarkwest, & Hsueh, 2012), Williamson,
Karney, and Bradbury (2017) reasoned that
programs that included job training and professional education, in addition to relationship
education, might have benefited couples, as
these programs targeted the specific problems
that lower income couples name as obstacles
to marriage (e.g., Edin & Reed, 2005). In fact,
programs that included these elements did have
unique effects, but in the opposite direction:
Men who received professional education were
less likely to transition into marriage. Further
analyses revealed that men receiving additional hours of education from these programs
spent less time at home with their children and
contributed less money to their households,
accounting for their lower marriage rates. Such
unexpected findings highlight the need to understand couples’ experiences—the demands they
are facing, the constraints on their time and
resources, and the particular dynamics that
are adaptive or maladaptive in their specific
context—before attempting to develop policy or
implement interventions to improve their lives.

Children in same-sex households experience similar health, behavioral, & educational outcomes when compared with children in different-sex households

Sexual‐ and Gender‐Minority Families: A 2010 to 2020 Decade in Review. Corinne Reczek. Journal of Marriage and Family, January 5 2020.

Abstract: This paper critically reviews research on sexual and gender minority (SGM) families, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, intersex, and other (LGBTQAI+) families, in the past decade (2010–2020). First, this paper details the three primary subareas that make up the majority of research on SGM families: (1) SGM family of origin relationships, (2) SGM intimate relationships, and (3) SGM‐parent families. Next, this paper highlights three main gaps in this decade's research: (1) a focus on gay, lesbian, and same‐sex families (and to a lesser extent bisexual and transgender families) and a lack of attention to the diverse family ties of single SGM people as well as intersex, asexual, queer, gender non‐binary/non‐conforming, polyamorous, and other SGM families; (2) an emphasis on white, socioeconomically advantaged SGM people and a failure to account for the significant racial‐ethnic and socioeconomic diversity in the SGM population; and (3) a lack of integration of SGM experiences across the life course, from childhood to old age. Future research should refine the measurement and analysis of SGM family ties with novel theory and data across the methodological spectrum.

SGM-Parent Family Effects on Children

Child well-being in SGM-parent families captured the attention of the scholarly, legal, and policy communities during the past decade, with research attempting to find consensus regarding whether children raised in SGM families are “worse off” than those raised in cisgender heterosexual families. Studies using new nationally representative population-based survey data put this question to rest, consistently showing that children in same-sex households experience similar health, behavioral, and educational outcomes when compared with children in different-sex households (Calzo et al., 2019; Farr, 2017; Patterson, 2017; Reczek, Spiker, Liu, & Crosnoe, 2016, 2017; for reviews, see Adams & Light, 2015; Manning, Fettro, & Lamidi, 2014). When differences are found across groups they are accounted for by variables other than sexual-minority status, including lower SES and family transitions (Potter, 2012; Potter & Potter, 2017). Notably, most studies in this area deploy household rosters and thus are only able to capture children in households with parents of the same-sex, not households with a parent who identifies as a gender or sexual minority. In one of the first large-scale surveys using such data, Rosenfeld (2010) examines U.S. Census data to show that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make typical progress through school as children of other family structures; any advantage for heterosexual married couples’ relative to other groups was explained by SES. Similarly, Reczek, Spiker et al. (2016, 2017) analyzed the National Health Interview Survey data to show that children raised in same-sex married families had overall similar health and behavioral outcomes relative to children in different-sex married families, and children in same-sex cohabiting families had overall similar outcomes to those in different-sex cohabiting families. In a study using the American Community Survey Waves 2008 to 2015, Boertien and Benardi (2019) showed that children living with a same-sex couple were likely to exhibit worse achievement outcomes relative to their peers in different-sex households in the past, but that this gap disappeared during the study period. A study of psychological adjustment after adoption found no differences in outcomes across children in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual families (Goldberg, 2013). In contrast, Regnerus (2012) showed that children who were older than 18 years who reported a parent had a same-sex relationship at some point during their childhood reported worse well-being outcomes than children raised in long-term heterosexual married households. However, Cheng and Powell (2015) reanalyzed Regnerus’s data to reveal that these negative effects were the result of inappropriate comparison groups (e.g., comparing married to divorced families). Moreover, although not viewed as a negative outcome for children, Goldberg and Garcia (2016) reported that children in lesbian families had less gender-typical behavior than children in heterosexual and gay families. Several recent studies attempt to move beyond comparing children in same- and different-sex households and articulate the unique contextual experiences of being a child in a SGM family. Lick, Tornello, Riskind, Schmidt, and Patterson (2012) used county-level social climate data to analyze the psychological well-being of children raised by same-sex parents and found better psychological outcomes for children in areas with antidiscrimination laws, suggesting it was institutional factors—not something inherent in the same-sex family—that would cause any negative child outcomes. In addition, in a study of 84 adult children with gay fathers, Thomeer, Donnelly, Reczek, and Umberson (2017) found that children feel closer to fathers when their fathers disclosed their gay identity earlier in the life course; those who report closer relationships with their fathers report greater well-being, suggesting that it is the context and content of the parent–child tie that shapes child well-being outcomes, not simply being from a gay family. Calzo et al. (2019) further showed that children of bisexual parents had higher rates of externalizing behaviors (e.g., physical aggression) than children of heterosexual parents, but that parents’ psychological distress accounted for this difference. Moreover, some research suggests benefits to being in SGM families; Prickett, Martin-Storey, and Crosnoe (2015) showed that there was an increase in parenting attention for children in gay and lesbian families, which may benefit later life outcomes such as educational attainment and employment. Although the vast majority of research focuses on children in same-sex households, a small number of studies, primarily qualitative, examine child well-being in gender-minority parent families (for a review, see Stotzer, Herman, & Hasenbush, 2014). For example, Pyne et al. (2015) showed that when a parent with minor children transitions, the child’s well-being was strongly shaped by whether the cisgender parent was transphobic and rejecting or accepting of the transgender parent. Tabor (2018) used 30 in-depth interviews with adult children of transgender parents to document the unique negotiation of role ambiguity children experience when a parent transitions. Significantly more research is needed on children in families other than same-sex, gay, or lesbian family structures.

Critiques and Future Research

Research on SGM family-of-origin relationships, intimate relationships, and parenthood
have proliferated in the past decade. Yet important limitations in research on SGM families
persist. Next I provide an account of the following three overarching limitations in SGM family
research: (a) a lack of focus on the diversity of
SGM family types such as bisexual, transgender,
asexual, and polyamorous families as well as
single SGM people; (b) a lack of racial-ethnic
and socioeconomic diversity; and (c) a failure
to account for the life course of family ties. I
outline how future research on SGM families
should address these three deficits. I also discuss
data and practical constraints that contribute to
these limitations.

SGM Diversity
Research in the past decade focuses primarily on
cisgender gay and lesbian identified people and
individuals who live in same-sex households. A
smaller but important body of research examines bisexual and transgender partnered families,
although research has not kept up with the rapid
growth of both of these family forms during
the past decade. Comparing cisgender gay
and lesbian families to cisgender heterosexual
families was an important first intervention to
a historically cisgender heterosexual-dominant
field. Yet there has been very little empirical
research on the families of other SGM populations, including intersex—people born with a
range of intersex traits normatively presumed
to be exclusively male or female (e.g., physical
genitalia or gonads incongruent with sex chromosomes; Davis, 2015); pansexual—someone
attracted to all genders; asexual—someone
who does not experience sexual attraction or
sexual interest to people of any gender (Carroll,
2019); bisexual—someone who is attracted to
more than one sex; or polyamorous—someone
who rejects the monogamous imperative and
is romantically involved with more than one
person at once. These gaps neglect the full range
of SGM minority families, especially those
who may be the most stigmatized as well as
those who offer the most robust challenges to
paradigms of monogamy, the gender binary, and
heteronormativity. Consequently, family forms
outside of the limited cisgender, gay, lesbian,
and same-sex scope are marginalized—this
exclusion has important implications for our
ability to fully understand SGM family life.
Importantly, research on family life has almost
exclusively focused on partnered SGM people
and has failed to articulate the family dynamics
of single SGM people. Demographic profiles
show that more than 50% of SGM people are
single (Jones, 2017), yet virtually no research
explicitly engages the family lives of SGM
single people.
The lack of inclusion of diverse SGM populations is in part due to data limitations given
the relatively small number of individuals in
these groups, although this is not the case for
bisexual people, who are among the fastest
growing sexual-minority group today (Bridges
& Moore, 2018). These data limitations are
especially prevalent in demographic and survey
research but also in qualitative research. The
majority of population-based research is reliant
on a few national surveys of same-sex household
rosters that do not ask sexual or gender identity
(e.g., U.S. Census) or rely on questions on sexual
or gender identity that are limited (e.g., identifying oneself as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual,
or “other”; e.g., National Health Interview Survey). We need better data—especially nationally
representative survey-based data—that account
for the range of identities, behaviors, and attractions in the SGM community. Although recent
surveys have added sexual identity questions or
questions on sex at birth and transgender status,
reliable and valid survey questions that account
for all SGM populations are relatively rare in
datasets that also include comprehensive measures of family relationships. Moreover, because
some SGM groups are small proportions of the
population, analyzed data can be untrustworthy.
Future data collection efforts should oversample
smaller SGM groups to allow for greater analytical power.
Qualitative research has been more effective
at providing high-quality, in-depth data on SGM
families today and will be an important aspect
of SGM family research in the next decade. Yet
qualitative studies, too, should be stretched to
include more marginalized and less-studied populations within the SGM group to develop new
theoretical approaches to understanding family
life (Compton, Meadow, & Schilt, 2018). Qualitative approaches are especially primed to fill the
dearth in research on relatively small subpopulations (such as intersex, pansexual, polyamorous,
and asexual individuals). Future research on
these populations will lead to new theoretical
advances that will influence the broader field of
family studies. Moreover, qualitative studies are
imperative in articulating the meaning of sexuality and gender identities as they change across
the next decade.
In the context of family-of-origin ties, better data with more comprehensive questions on
gender identity and sexuality and the oversampling of SGM subpopulations would allow us to
examine the nature of family-of-origin ties and
the effects of those family ties on well-being
for all SGM youth and adults. This is especially important as more youth are identifying in
non-cis, non-hetero categories than ever before,
and a continued exclusive focus on gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities will prevent us from
understanding the full range of sexual and gender diversity in the next generation of SGM
families. Questions could include the following:

How do SGM youth and adults experience and
reframe family violence, rejection and disownment, ambivalence, and support? What are the
processes through which people with different
SGM identities cope and thrive in less supportive environments? How do parents perceive and
negotiate ties with their SGM children across the
diversity of SGM statuses? How are intergenerational ties renegotiated as SGM statuses change?
How do single SGM people conceive of their
intergenerational relationships, and how does
being single shape disclosure, identity maintenance, and family relationships?

These are just some of the questions that might emerge when
we broaden the range of SGM diversity within
the realm of family of origin.
In the context of intimate ties and parenthood,
scholars continue to reify cisgender different-sex
or heterosexual couples as the gold-standard
reference category from which to compare
dynamics and outcomes of cisgender same-sex
or gay or lesbian couples. To move beyond a
focus on this comparison, future research must
explore the marital and parental decisions of
partners across sexual (e.g., polyamorous, asexual) and gender (e.g., transgender, genderqueer)
categories and include multipartner and single
families across the SGM spectrum. In doing
so, new questions and insights will arise, such
as the following: How do people of different SGM identities understand intimate and
parenthood relationships and make decisions
about entering into these relationships? For
example, polyamorous relationship formation
is notably absent from current research (Shippers, 2016). Bisexual people are more likely
to be in different-sex marriages than same-sex
marriages, yet we do not know how bisexuals understand their identity as a SGM within
different-sex relationships. Moreover, do various
SGM groups of young adults today retreat from
marriage due to queer or feminist principles,
or seek marriage to access the legal and social
protections afforded to cisgender heterosexual
individuals? How does relationship quality and
predictors of divorce vary across the SGM spectrum? How do more marginalized SGM family
configurations challenge and redefine how we
measure the division of labor? In addition, do
all SGM groups experience health benefits with
marriage, or is this benefit found only for those
that are in monogamous same-sex long-term
relationships? How do dissolution processes differ across the SGM spectrum and what can we
learn about this dissolution? How do single SGM
people conceive of the prospect of intimate relationships, and do friends become more important
as sources social support when not in an intimate
relationship? Finally, studies of parenthood must
definitively move away from proving children
in same-sex couples are equally well-off to their
heterosexual counterparts to thinking more creatively about how SGM parents across the spectrum are negotiating their parental roles in ways
dependent on socio-institutional and political
contexts. How do single SGM parents negotiate
their SGM identity and find social support and
cope with strain in both SGM and cisgender
heterosexual communities? These are just a few
of the ways in which the next decade of research
can further advance science on diverse SGM
family life.

Integration of Racial-Ethnic and Socioeconomic Diversity

There are intersecting aspects of inequality
that shape SGM people’s lives, including gender, race-ethnicity, and SES. Yet attention to
multiple, intersecting forms of inequality has
not been systematically integrated into SGM
family research (Acosta, 2018). Racial-ethnic
minorities make up a larger percent of the SGM
population than the general population (Gates,
2014), yet research on SGM families lacks racial
diversity as well as thoughtful racial analyses
with consistent and robust considerations of how
family processes are always already racialized
regardless of sample racial-ethnic composition
(Acosta, 2018). Furthermore, there is a lack of
focus on cross-cultural comparisons as well as
non-U.S. or non-Western contexts, limiting our
ability to understand the global landscape of
SGM families.
Moreover, this body of work pays inadequate
attention to socioeconomic diversity within the
SGM population. Despite assumptions of gay
affluence, recent research that suggests SGM
people are socioeconomically disadvantaged
relative to their cisgender heterosexual counterparts (Gates, 2014). Given the racial-ethnic and
socioeconomic diversity of the SGM population
and the clear importance of race-ethnicity and
SES in every facet of family life, our conclusions thus far provide limited, primarily White
and socioeconomically advantaged views of
SGM family life. Data limitations prohibit our
ability to study SES and race-ethnicity by SGM
status; most national data sources have variables for race and SES but the sample sizes of
racial-ethnic minority and SES sexual-minority
groups are small. Future data collection efforts
should oversample SGM racial-ethnic groups
to allow scholars to examine racial-ethnic and
socioeconomic variation. Notably, even qualitative and smaller-scale research in this area
fails to adequately account for racial-ethnic and
socioeconomic diversity; future studies of all
kinds need to collect a great deal of data from
non-White, non-middle-class populations to
drive research forward.
A small body of research on family-of-origin
relationships reveals the importance of examining race-ethnicity variation. In a qualitative
study with 90 parents and 90 LGB children (ages
15–24), with 59% of the sample an ethnic minority, Black, Hispanic, and Latino parents report
more parental rejection of their children and
more homonegativity than White parents, with
children corroborating these results (Richter,
Lindahl, & Malik, 2017). In an ethnographic
and in-depth interview study with 40 lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth,
Robinson (2018) showed how families who
were already economically disadvantaged experienced additional instability when a child was
gender nonconforming, leading to increases in
adolescent and young adult poverty and homelessness. Considerably more research needs
to address what might be unique stressors—or
sources of resilience—for SGM youth and adults
of color and across the socioeconomic spectrum
within their family-of-origin relationships.
Questions stemming from an intersectional
approach may include the following: How do
the interpretations, experiences, and consequences of family-of-origin support, strain,
and ambivalence vary across race-ethnicity
and SES? How do negotiations of rejection or
ambivalence depend on racialized and classed
experiences? How are our conceptualizations
of what family of origin is or should be dependent on White, middle-class SGM notions of
family? How do sibling and extended family relationships differ across racial-ethnic and
socioeconomic groups, and how does this matter
for health outcomes? What are unique adaptive
pathways taken when SGM of color across
SES are faced with family-of-origin rejection
or strain? Overall, greater theorizing of the
racial-ethnic and socioeconomic experiences
of the family of origin must be addressed to
fully understand the nature of family-of-origin
Research consistently shows that intimate
relationship dynamics are also racialized and
vary by SES. As such, race-ethnicity and SES
are likely central to family relationships among
SGM populations. For example, research suggests that SGM people are more likely to
date and marry individuals of a different race
than themselves relative to heterosexual and
cisgender people. Due to the lower levels of
marriage and higher rates of parenthood among
racial-ethnic and socioeconomically disadvantaged people in the United States today,
racial-ethnic minority and working-class SGM
individuals may experience a lower likelihood
of marriage and a higher likelihood of parenthood, yet previous research has not explored
this possibility nor its implications. Once in
an intimate relationship, research suggests that
relationship quality, division of labor, and dissolution may operate differently by race and
class (Moore, 2011), and thus work is needed
to address how relationship patterns—and the
predictors of these patterns—differ across race
and class across SGM groups.
With regard to SGM parenthood, although
the past decade confirmed that children with
same-sex parents fair equally well as children
in different-sex families, the next decade should
turn to how interlocking systems of oppression
including homophobia, racism, and classism
at the individual and institutional levels matter for children’s well-being across the SGM
spectrum. Scholars should also examine the
resilient characteristics of children who experience these multiple vectors of inequality. For
example, an intersectional approach should be
used to examine how racial-ethnic minority
parent families experience increased stress and
resiliency as both SGM and racial-ethnic stigma
as well as the specific ways in which SGM parents who have fewer socioeconomic resources
negotiate parenting intentions and parenting

Integrating a Life Course Approach

Scholars have long articulated the accumulating
effects family ties play across the life course.
Yet to date research has narrowed in on specific
family ties within certain life course moments,
most notably family of origin during youth and
adolescence and romantic ties and parenthood
during mid-life. Yet what is missing is an understanding of how family relationships unfold and
accumulate across the life course as well as
how cohorts and historical periods shape the
life experiences of SGM families. A holistic
approach to SGM families requires longitudinal studies of SGM people from childhood to
later life, with attention to cohort and historical period. To answer questions that explore
life course processes, we need more qualitative
and quantitative longitudinal datasets that trend
across time, with attention to how age, period,
and cohort effects may have significant consequences for SGM individuals’ understanding of
their own family lives. Even if data cannot be
prospective over decades, scholars should work
to account for these important contextual processes retrospectively. Data should also capture
the period and cohort effects and the historical events that shape the lives of SGM people,
including marriage equality, SGM-related laws
and policies, and political change such as new
presidential administrations that likely influence
SGM family life. A nuanced account of these
historical events will be key in understanding
changes in family patterns as we continue into
the next decade.
In terms of family-of-origin ties, significant
gaps remain in understanding how early life
experiences with parents translate into midand later life relationships. Future scholars may
ask the following: How do family-of-origin
ties change during the transition to adulthood,
and do they become more or less salient for
health and well-being? How do family-of-origin
ties continue to matter for the everyday lives
of SGM long after adolescence and into old
age? Do adaptive strategies used to cope with
family conflict change over time? Does strain
in adolescence, emerging adulthood, and young
adulthood shape educational outcomes, poverty,
and occupational status later in life? Moreover,
virtually no research examines intergenerational ties in later life, yet this is an especially
important life course moment given increased
longevity, increased stigma in old age for SGM
people, the rising of “gray divorce,” and potential loneliness of SGM adults. In later in life, we
may ask the following: Do elderly SGM adults
in need of care have family-of-origin members
to support their health needs? How is the provision of care for SGM older adults shaped by
earlier life experiences with family of origin?
Do siblings and other family members step in to
care for aging SGM adults, or do chosen family
members play this important role?
In the context of intimate relationships, a life
course approach suggests that understanding
intimate relationships in midlife is dependent
on one’s relationship biography in adolescence
and young adulthood. For example, the timing and dynamics of a first sexual-minority or
heterosexual relationship will likely have an
impact on subsequent relationship timings and
dynamics. Thus, we need the full relationship
history—including a full history of sexual
identities, behaviors, and attractions—to gauge
the meaning and consequences of intimate ties
across the life course. Moreover, a life course
approach requires better understanding of historical (i.e., period) context and cohort effects,
which means taking into account the recent
legal, social, and political changes including
marriage legalization and high-profile court
cases on discrimination (Baumle & Compton,
2015). For example, due to changes in marital
law, today’s SGM adolescents have grown up in
an environment where marriage between individuals of the same sex or gender is possible;
a unique position relative to other generations.
Yet we know very little about how different generations negotiate questions of legality in their
intimate ties based on these different cohorts
and periods. In addition, because relationship
quality changes over time, the next step of
research is the use of longitudinal data—both
qualitative and quantitative—to examine how
relationship biographies (e.g., moving in and
out of relationships) and relationship quality
changes across the life course. Longitudinal
type of data would allow for the identification
of predictors of SGM divorce and dissolution,
articulating, for example, whether being in a heterosexual relationship earlier in the life course
shape the risk of sexual-minority relationship
Similarly, the majority of research on the division of labor is in midlife, but we know very
little about the nature of household labor practices both in adolescence or in later life. Because
the division of labor appears to be related to
cohort, it may be that younger cohorts have
very different labor negotiations than older SGM
cohorts, perhaps due to period changes. For
example, Giddings, Nunley, Schneebaum, and
Zietz (2014) compared the division of labor of
couples with and without children across generations including the baby boomers, Generation X,
and Generation Y and found that same-sex couples were less likely than different-sex couples
to exhibit specialization overall. However, this
gap narrows across cohorts, wherein the division
of labor appears more egalitarian for heterosexuals in later cohorts and potentially less so among
same-sex couples. Future research should facilitate a greater understanding of how and why
such changes have shifted over time. Finally,
health in later life is of key importance to the
aging SGM population, and intimate ties may
serve as one protective factor for early mortality
and morbidity. Yet very little research examines
how SGM intimate relationships protect—or
undermine—health during times of illness and
injury in later life (see Fredriksen-Goldsen et al.,
2016). This research could include a study of
caregiving processes when a spouse is sick as
well as how relationship conflicts shape health
over time. Thomeer et al. (2017) showed that gay
and lesbian couples were much more likely to
plan for their end of life (e.g., wills, family planning) than were heterosexual couples. Yet we
know virtually nothing about end-of-life experiences among SGM families (see Marsack &
Stephenson, 2018).
In relation to parenthood, a life course
approach suggests that the processes of becoming and being a parent may differ across the life
course, by age, cohort, and period (i.e., historical
context), yet few studies consider these events
in research on SGM parenting. For example,
parenthood pathways constraints mean that
some SGM adults become parents later in life
than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts,
but what is unknown is how this shapes parenting practices and subsequent parent well-being?
Who becomes parents at any given point in
the life course, and who wants to parent but
is unable earlier in the life course? How does
becoming a parent shift SGM relationships with
their own aging parents and family of origin?
Does becoming parents at different life course
stages influence the parent–child relationship
later in the life course, including caregiving processes? How would cohort and period changes
in parenting intentions and approaches alter
the nature of SGM parenting today? Attention
to unfolding individual and collective history
will provide new insights into being a SGM
parent today.

The Dark Tetrad in Tinder: hook-up app for high psychopathy individuals, and a diverse utilitarian tool for Machiavellians?

The Dark Tetrad in Tinder: hook-up app for high psychopathy individuals, and a diverse utilitarian tool for Machiavellians? Minna Lyons, Ashleigh Messenger, Rebecca Perry & Gayle Brewer. Current Psychology, January 6 2020.

Abstract: Location-based on-line dating applications are a popular tool for initiating short and long-term relationships. Besides seeking for partners, people use these applications for a myriad of other reasons. We investigated how the Dark Tetrad of personality, controlling for sex, age, and trolling tendencies, related to different motives for using Tinder. Current or former Tinder users (N = 216) completed online scales for Tinder use motivations, trolling, sadism, and the Dark Triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy). Using Tinder for acquiring sexual experience was related to being male and being high in psychopathy. Psychopathy was positively correlated with using Tinder to distract oneself from other tasks (e.g., procrastination). Higher Machiavellianism and being female were related to peer pressure as a Tinder use motivation. Using Tinder for acquiring social or flirting skills had a negative relationship with narcissism, and positive relationship with Machiavellianism. Finally, Machiavellianism was also a significant, positive predictor of Tinder use for social approval and to pass the time. Results indicate that individuals high in Machiavellianism use Tinder for a number of utilitarian reasons, whereas the main motive for high psychopathy individuals is hook-up for casual sex.


Our results suggest that darker aspects of personality are related to unique motivations for using a real-time, location-based dating application. Sadism did not predict Tinder use motivations, suggesting that Dark Triad rather than the Dark Tetrad is significant for this online behaviour. For psychopathy, we replicated the findings of Timmermans et al. (2018), showing that those high in psychopathy were more likely to use Tinder to gain sexual experience. The high sex drive and short-term mating orientation associated with psychopathy (e.g., Book et al. 2016) clearly translates into using online dating applications for sexual gratification. Other significant finding with regard to psychopathy was the use of Tinder for distracting oneself from other tasks. Previous research has found that especially the impulsive secondary psychopathy facet is related to procrastination in order to avoid completing other tasks (Lyons and Rice 2014). Perhaps high psychopathy individuals procrastinate by focussing on tasks that are more intrinsically motivating, such as finding short-term sexual partners online. The associations between psychopathy, and distraction and sexual experience motivations are interesting, and could have links with the overall impulsive, hedonistic, and procrastinating lifestyles of high psychopathy individuals.
The long-term strategic and flexible nature of Machiavellianism (Jones and Paulhus 2009) was evident in the Tinder use motivations. Machiavellianism had a positive relationship with using Tinder for social approval (i.e., to get validation from others about one’s attractiveness), when travelling, as a consequence of peer-pressure, to pass time or provide entertainment, and to practise social skills and flirting. All motivations could reflect the use of social and online environment to reach long-term objectives (Bereczkei 2018). For instance, Machiavellianism has been associated with the use of social media for self-presentation (Abell and Brewer 2014) and impression management tactics (Hart et al. 2019). Our findings extend self-presentation to the dating environment. Using Tinder for social approval and conforming to peer pressure could all be part of a façade that makes Machiavellian individuals more socially desirable partners.
The relationship between Machiavellianism and the use of Tinder to pass time or provide entertainment is consistent with a recent study that failed to find a connection between Machiavellianism and a wide range of movie and music preferences (Bowes et al. 2018). It is possible that Machiavellian individuals have a more utilitarian approach to their entertainment and use tools that also provide real-life benefits (e.g., acquisition of a partner). Additional research is required to explore Machiavellianism and this aspect of human behaviour.
Narcissism predicted the use of Tinder to improve flirting and social skills only. Those high on narcissism display a sense of superiority and entitlement (Emmons 1984), for example believing themselves to be more desirable than their romantic partners (Campbell et al. 2002). The relationship between narcissism and this motivation may, therefore, reflect the tendency of high narcissist’s to believe that they already excel in this field and do not need to develop their flirting or social skills.
This study has some limitations. For example, participants who did not conform to a binary gender identify were not represented in the sample, nor did we ascertain the sexual orientation or relationship status of participants. Sexual orientation is likely to influence the motivation of finding out information about sexual orientation of others but is unlikely to have an impact on other Tinder motives (Timmermans and De Caluwé 2017b). Around 15–20% of Tinder users report being in a committed relationship (Orosz et al. 2018; Timmermans and De Caluwé 2017b), but it is currently not clear how the motivations of individuals with different levels of Dark Tetrad may be influenced by their relationship status. This is certainly something that future research should take into consideration.
In addition, it is important to note that current findings are reliant on the honesty and accuracy of participant responses to self-report questionnaires. Socially desirable responding is positively related to narcissism and negatively related to Machiavellianism and psychopathy (Kowalski et al. 2018). In order to counteract this, future research should include objective measures of Tinder activity rather than rely only on self-reports. Also, our study included a short Dark Triad measure, which fails to capture the multidimensionality of the construct, and provides a weak differentiation between psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Miller et al. 2019). The study would benefit from replication with longer measures, which would allow investigations into how different components of the Dark Triad relate to on-line dating motivations.
Finally, it is unclear what real-life implications the Tinder use motivations have. Do high psychopathy individuals successfully acquire sexual partners on Tinder? Does Tinder use influence the status, likeability, or social influence of individuals high on Machiavellianism? The present study is hopefully a starting point for investigating whether the Dark Tetrad relates to Tinder use motivations because these motivations lead to some form of social or sexual success.
In summary, we investigated the relationship between socially malevolent personality traits, and the motivations to use a popular real-time, location-based dating application, Tinder. Beyond the identity and enjoyment in trolling, sadism may have little relationship with Tinder use motivations. Those high in psychopathy were motivated by sexual experience and distraction. As a testimony to the flexibility of Machiavellianism as a trait, we found that it correlated with a myriad of reasons not directly associated with short-term sexual hook-ups. Online dating may, therefore, provide an opportunity to develop skills that of use in future situations, something that long-term strategists (i.e., high Machiavellian individuals) may be oriented to.