Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Howard Markman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anne DePrince

Third Advisor

Wyndol Furman

Fourth Advisor

Galena Rhoades

Fifth Advisor

Elizabeth Suter


Couple therapy, Cultural competence, Lesbian couples, Relationship education, Same-sex couples


Lesbian relationships are severely underrepresented in the couples and family literature (Hartwell, Serovich, Grafsky, & Kerr, 2012). The current study sought to expand the basic science on lesbian couples with the overarching goal of informing evidence-based relationship interventions. The first aim of this study was to examine processes found to be important to relationship success in previous studies of couples in general, including communication, external support, household tasks, intimacy, and sex, as these processes are typically targeted in relationship interventions. The second aim was to examine the role of factors more specific to lesbian couples and related to heterosexist stressors as these factors may provide content areas for creating more culturally sensitive and affirming relationship programs. The heterosexist stressors analyzed included sexual minority stress--conceptualized to consist of outness, internalized homophobia, and discrimination--as well as commitment behaviors given the variable legal climate for same-sex couples. Finally, the third aim was to assess the associations between relationship quality and mental health outcomes. Participants included 103 adult female same-sex couples who provided self-report data and participated in observational communication tasks. Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006) were utilized for most analyses. Findings suggest that processes traditionally addressed by relationship interventions would likely be beneficial to focus on with lesbian couples. At the same time, factors specific to lesbian couples were also found to be important, suggesting that some cultural adaptations that incorporate these factors may be beneficial for relationship interventions that serve lesbian couples. Finally, individual mental health outcomes were all found to have associations with relationship quality. Clinical implications are discussed, including how to incorporate cultural competence into relationship interventions for lesbian couples, the importance of challenging heteronormative biases, and which topics specific to lesbian relationships may be important to discuss with some clients. The study concludes with recommendations for future research to continue building a strong relationship science on lesbian couples and possible ideas for future interventions.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Shelby B. Scott


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

226 p.


Clinical Psychology