Biological sex and sexual orientation as factors in relationship patterns: A study of love, sex, friendship, and gender

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Blaine J. Fowers - Committee Chair


Differences and similarities among lesbian women, gay men, heterosexual women, and heterosexual men in level of contact after breakup with serious relationship partners and in level of "sexualness", defined as an individual's tendency to use sexual nuance in their interpersonal interactions, were investigated. Differences and similarities between male oriented individuals, or those for whom men are sexual targets (heterosexual women/gay men) and female oriented individuals, or those for whom women are sexual targets (heterosexual men/lesbian women) on measures of dependency, gender identity, dominance, coldness, vindictiveness, nonassertiveness, exploitability, intrusiveness, over-nurturance, and social avoidance were explored. Systems and self-in-relation theories were contrasted for each theory's power as an explanatory base for the findings. Questionnaires were distributed through a snowball sampling method to adults aged 25--63. There were 60 lesbian, 37 gay male, 45 heterosexual female, and 39 heterosexual male respondents. Three scales assessing attitude toward post-breakup contact, behaviors involving post-breakup contact, and levels of sexualness were developed and validated in two pilot studies and one replication study. The sexualness scale was initially intended to assess non-sexual physical expressions of platonic feelings of closeness but was reconceptualized as a scale of sexualness during the validation process. Results of each pilot and the replication study are reported and discussed separately. Because findings from the second pilot were replicated in the replication study it was decided that the two data sets could be aggregated. Aggregation provided sufficient cell size for more detailed analyses than the single data sets could support. Findings from the combined data were that gays/lesbians reported significantly higher levels of contact with ex-serious-relationship partners than heterosexuals, males reported significantly higher levels of sexualness in interpersonal interaction than females, and male oriented individuals reported higher levels of concern with rejection, loss, and abandonment in intimate relationships, whereas female oriented individuals reported higher levels of difficulties experiencing emotional closeness. Systems theory appeared to hold the greatest explanatory power for post-breakup connectedness, whereas self-in-relation theory appeared most salient for understanding the sex target findings. Sexual orientation was found to be an important factor for explaining within-gender variability on a number of measures.


Psychology, Clinical; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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