Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Glass, Jennifer

First Committee Member

Noonan, Mary

Second Committee Member

Lewin, Ellen

Third Committee Member

Paik, Anthony

Fourth Committee Member

Sauder, Michael


This dissertation addressed whether and how theories of marriage apply to same-sex relationships. These theories correspond to two main research questions. First, does the legal recognition of same-sex relationships provide the same benefits for members of same-sex couples that it does for different-sex spouses? Second, how do same-sex couples divide household labor, and, should inequalities emerge, what factors explain the division of labor? Marriage provides numerous benefits to husband/wife couples who wed, including better mental and physical health, greater financial security, and higher levels of sexual satisfaction. Using results from a web-based survey of members of same-sex couples and same-sex-attracted singles (N=429), I tested the applicability of the "marriage benefits model" to same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships, and cohabiting couples. Although the focus of the same-sex marriage debate has been on the positive attributes of marriage, marriage for different-sex couples is also associated with great inequity in the division of household labor. Explanations for the housework gap point to gender or are tied up in correlates of gender, such as income and work hours. I also explored variations in the division of household labor in same-sex marriages and partnerships and tested extant theories of housework inequality. Results indicated that legal recognition (marriages and civil unions) does provide some benefits to financial well-being and physical health. Defining one's own relationship as a marriage (regardless of legal recognition) was more strongly associated with "marriage" benefits, including greater financial well-being, an improved sexual relationship, and fewer health-risk behaviors. Femininity was positively related to proportional housework contributions, and proportional work hours were inversely related, to proportional housework, supporting both the gender and time availability explanations of housework inequalities. Interactions between gender and relationship characteristics and between time availability and relationship characteristics were also explored.


financial well-being, health, housework, marriage, same-sex, sexual satisfaction


ix, 161 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 117-127).


Copyright 2009 Nicole Hagan Wolensky Civettini

Included in

Sociology Commons