Relational Ambiguity in Same-Gender versus Different-Gender Emerging Adult Relationships


Simon Abimosleh
Sarah Whitton


By Simon Abimosleh, Psychology

Advisor: Sarah Whitton

Abstract: Among young adults, sex no longer reliably indicates commitment and define-the-relationship talks are largely avoided. Therefore, many young adults have high relational ambiguity, or feelings of uncertainty about their relationship's future, about partner's perceptions of the relationship, and about the acceptability of relationship behaviors (e.g., monogamy; labeling the relationship). Scholars theorize that young adults in same-gender relationships face heightened relational ambiguity because partners may be reluctant to use commitment markers due to societal stigma, though this may vary by gender. Gay culture may encourage relational ambiguity in same-gender male couples, but discourage it in same-gender female couples. With a sample of 233 young adults in undefined relationships, we explored differences in relational ambiguity by couple type (same-gender vs. different-gender) and gender (female vs male). Participants completed the 24-item Relational Ambiguity Scale (RAS;James-Kangal & Whitton, 2019), which assesses own ambivalence, partner ambiguity, and behavioral uncertainty. We conducted a two-way (couple type by gender) factorial ANCOVA predicting each RAS subscale with religiosity as a covariate. Results showed a significant main effect of couple type on partner ambiguity, such that same-gender couples (M = 2.10, SD = .07) reported higher partner ambiguity F(1, 228) = 7.732, p = .006) than different-gender couples (M = 1.93, SD = .06). There was no effect of couple type on own ambiguity or behavioral uncertainty and no interaction between couple type and gender on any RAS subscale. Study findings highlight how uncertainty about partner's views of relationships in same-gender relationships may promote psychological and relationship distress.


Classic Podium (9:45-11:45 AM)