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Study: Female Couples Break Up Twice as Often as Male Couples

same-sex couples

An expansive study on same- and opposite-sex couples delivered some intriguing results. 

Contrary to old stereotypes about lesbians, women in same-sex relationships are twice as likely to break up than men in same-sex relationships and 1.5 times as more likely to break up than opposite-sex couples, according to a new study published in Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, according to a release from The Williams Institute.

The study, titled "Longitudinal Predictors of Relationship Dissolution Among Same-sex and Heterosexual Couples," looked at 515 couples based in Vermont (the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples) between 2002 and 2014, and also determined that there was no difference in the rate of same-sex couple break-ups between those who'd legalized their relationship and those who had not.

"When considering all couple types together, longer relationship length, older age, and better relationship quality reduced the chances of a breakup," the study concluded, adding that female couples with higher education rates tended to break up less while support among friend groups increased the likelihood of breakups among couples.

Additionally, across all demographics in the study, lower income and whether or not the couples had children did not impact the likelihood of break-ups.

The study, coauthored by Williams Institute visiting scholar Esther D. Rothblum, along with Kimberly F. Balsam and Robert E. Wickham, is the first to look at heterosexual and same-sex couples over a long period of time since full rights and benefits were extended to same-sex couples.

"This kind of research is crucial in combatting stereotypes about same-sex couples and can inform policy and program development to support healthy relationships for all couples. Intimate relationships are dynamic, and longitudinal designs allow us to capture these changes over time in a more nuanced way," said study coauthor Balsam, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at Palo Alto University.

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Tracy E. Gilchrist