|Couples Can’t Agree if They Agreed on Monogamy|
|Living - Relationships|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Tuesday, 18 January 2011 15:00|
Corvallis, OR, USA. While monogamy is often touted as a way to protect against disease, young couples who say they have discussed monogamy can’t seem to agree on what they decided.
And a significant percentage of those couples who at least agreed that they would be monogamous did not fulfill their agreement.
A new study of 434 young heterosexual couples ages 18-25 found that, in 40 percent of couples, only one partner says the couple agreed to be sexually exclusive. The other partner said there was no agreement.
Public health researchers Jocelyn Warren and Marie Harvey of Oregon State University (OSU) looked at data from the PARTNERS Project, a study conducted by Harvey. The researchers found that many couples are misjudging their partners’ risk behaviors. The results appear in the Journal of Sex Research.
S. Marie Harvey os a Professor in Public Health at Oregon State University (OSU).“Other studies have looked at perceptions related to monogamy, but this is really the first one that explores the discussions that heterosexual couples are — or aren’t — having about monogamy,” Warren said. “Miscommunication and misunderstandings about sexual exclusivity appear to be common.”
Previous research has shown that condom use tends to decline as relationships become more intimate and steady over time. Yet Warren and Harvey’s study shows that some couples may not be communicating effectively on the terms of their relationship. Even among those who agreed they had an explicit agreement to be monogamous, almost 30 percent had broken the agreement, with at least one partner having had sex outside the relationship.
Harvey, a leading researcher in the field of sexual and reproductive health, said this study adds to a growing body of research on safer sex communication.
“Couples have a hard time talking about these sorts of issues, and I would imagine for young people it’s even more difficult,” she said. “Monogamy comes up quite a bit as a way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. But you can see that agreement on whether one is monogamous or not is fraught with issues.”
The couples surveyed included both married and non-married couples. Interestingly, couples with children were less likely to have a monogamy agreement in place. Married couples were no more likely to have an explicit monogamy agreement in place than other couples.
Only commitment was related to sustained monogamy. Relationship commitment was assessed using an accepted measurement scale where participants rated themselves from one to five (five being highest) on questions such as “You view your relationship as permanent.” With every unit increase in the commitment scale, the odds that the couple had a sustained monogamy agreement increased almost three-fold.
“Relationship variables appear to be related to monogamy,” Harvey said. “But factors such as marriage and children did not increase the likelihood that the couple had agreed to monogamy.”
Warren said couples become monogamous generally for emotional reasons, to show love and trust in a relationship. Yet the concern is that a lack of communication between heterosexual couples is leading to unintended risks.
Harvey said the sexual behavior and protection of young couples is ripe for intervention. She recommends that those who work with young people in clinical and community settings ask what kind of protection they are using. “And if they answer that their partner is monogamous, they may want to think about advising that young person to use protection,” Harvey said.
FundingThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded this study.
ParticipationWarren is a research associate at OSU and Harvey is a professor of public health at OSU. Christopher Agnew from Purdue University contributed to this study.
CitationOne Love: Explicit Monogamy Agreements among Heterosexual Young Adult Couples at Increased Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections. Jocelyn T. Warren, S. Marie Harvey, and Christopher R. Agnew. Journal of Sex Research 2010; ePub ahead of print. doi:10.1080/00224499.2010.541952
HIV prevention strategies among couples include condom use, mutual monogamy, and HIV testing. Research suggests that condom use is more likely with new or casual partners, and tends to decline as relationships become steady over time. Little is known, however, about explicit mutual monogamy agreements and HIV testing within heterosexual couples. This study used data from 434 young heterosexual couples at increased risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to assess (a) couple concordance on perceptions of a monogamy agreement, sustained monogamy, and HIV testing; and (b) the associations of relationship and demographic factors with monogamy agreement, sustained monogamy, and HIV testing. Results indicated only slight to fair agreement within couples on measures of monogamy agreement and sustained monogamy. Overall, 227 couples (52%) concurred that they had an explicit agreement to be monogamous; of those, 162 (71%) had sustained the agreement. Couples with greater health protective communication and commitment were more likely to have a monogamy agreement. Couples of Latino and Hispanic ethnicity and those with children were less likely to have a monogamy agreement. Only commitment was related to sustained monogamy. Having children, greater health protective communication, and perceived vulnerability to HIV and STIs were associated with HIV testing within the couple.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January 2011 15:50|