Stress and social support in gay, lesbian, and heterosexual couples: direct effects and buffering models.

Research paper by James M JM Graham, Zoe B ZB Barnow

Indexed on: 26 Jun '13Published on: 26 Jun '13Published in: Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43)


The beneficial effect of social support on the well-being of individuals and romantic relationships has been extensively studied in married heterosexual relationships. The direct effects model suggests that social support is directly associated with well-being, while the social buffering model describes how social support can protect individual well-being from the negative impact of stress. In the present study, we seek to test the extent to which these processes apply to gay and lesbian couples. We use a sample of 111 gay, lesbian, and married heterosexual couples to test the predictions of the social buffering models across relationship types. Irrespective of sexual orientation, the results suggest that social support from family and friends is directly related to well-being, while support provided by one's romantic partner buffered individual well-being from the negative impact of stress. The direct and buffering effects of partner support on romantic relationship quality were likewise consistent across couple types. While the amount of social support received from family members had a beneficial effect on the relationship quality of heterosexual couples, family support was unrelated to relationship quality in same-sex couples. Furthermore, the relation between friend support and relationship quality differed across couple types. We discuss the results in the context of the unique challenges faced by same-sex couples.