Health & Wellness / Life

Connections Across the Lifespan: New Research

Two new studies are out that indicate to us once again that we are more similar to our heterosexual brethren than some may have once thought. The first demonstrates the importance of the parent/caregiver-child emotional connection in the prevention of risky behavior in young gay men. The second focuses on the similarities between heterosexual and gay unions in terms of staying power.

Findings from the first study showed, “youth had limited engagement in unsafe sex when the families were able to have open, reciprocal discussions that were low in disagreement. Close family connections seemed to provide a context for safety,” said study author Michael LaSala, an associate professor and licensed clinical social worker at Rutgers University School of Social Work, in a university news release. Though this study is unable to make a cause and effect statement, it reiterates the importance of family support in coming out situations for young gay men.

PHOTO CREDIT: BIGSTOCK

Risky behavior that might have life-long consequences is a very real concern, and understanding the connections that we as parents can make with our children can assist them in preventing unintentional consequences. Closeness with parents was particularly mentioned by families in talking about the use of condoms. Youth who felt their parents were invested in their health and well-being were protected from some self-harmful behavior.

In another recent study by Dr. Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University, findings from 3,000 couples including 500 same-sex pairings showed that when a “marriage-like” legal protection was in place, the breakup rates of these couples was similar to their heterosexual counterparts. This was a nationally representative sample, different from previous studies on the subject. It has been thought that same-sex couples had higher rates of breakup due to a variety of factors, but this study showed that with marriage equality in place, the rates were similar.

The author stressed the importance of same-sex marriage, civil union, and domestic partnership when looking at the study findings. Rosenfeld stated that the ability of same-sex couples to legally marry within their state seemed to raise the longevity of relationships. He went on to say, “married couples [either straight or gay] are dramatically more likely to stay together than unmarried couples at all levels of relationship quality and at all relationship durations.”

Both of these studies focus on family settings and positive outcomes. They demonstrate the significance of our connections with our families of origin, and also those families that we choose. Making connections with our parents as teenagers that may help us prevent risky behavior sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy connections. Marriage, and the support that comes with it, continues that loving support, perhaps even for a lifetime.

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