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-   -   Request for couples research participation (http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=38336)

couplesresearch 01-20-2013 01:05 AM

Request for couples research participation
Hello, polyamory.com members,
I’m a graduate student researching couples; I'm studying at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Myself and the two other researchers involved in this study are looking for individuals who are 18 or older, and who have been in a relationship for at least 3 months, to participate in an online study. The focus of this study is people’s thoughts and feelings about their own personalities and relationships. We are hoping to gather responses from people in different types of relationships and from different communities. Here is a link to the study:

and our Facebook research page:

For further information about our goals and intentions, I include the following:

(The TL;DR version is that I am extremely committed to conducting research in a respectful manner, and am very interested in any feedback you might have for improving our methods. There are places for feedback in the survey.)

This study has been approved by the University of Tennessee IRB Board, and our goal is to present our research findings in peer-reviewed settings, both scientific conferences and scientific journals. I believe an important part of being an ethical researcher is to do one’s best to gather feedback from participant communities, particularly if said communities often experiences stigma and misconception. Our survey has an opportunity to provide feedback on the study, and I will compile said feedback and post it here for the use of future researchers, as well as try to disseminate it in other appropriate venues. Hopefully, this will help reduce the number of times you have to repeat the same feedback. In addition, I will return here throughout data collection to answer whatever questions I can answer before the data collection phase of the study is finished, and respond to feedback. I will also post a summary of my findings here, once the data is collected and analyzed.
Couples research has improved over the years, in terms of including different types of relationships. Unfortunately, almost exclusively, the relationships studied are heterosexual or same-sex, assumed to be relatively ‘mainstream’ and monogamous (with the sometimes exception of gay men’s relationships, which says something about the research community’s assumptions in and of itself). When relationships are compared and contrasted, it is almost always done so on the basis of traits like sexual orientation or ethnicity. Other relationships, for example: poly, kink, transgender, and/or asexual relationships, are rarely given attention in the couples literature. This means that virtually nothing is known ‘scientifically’ about some groups, and ideas based on ignorance continue to proliferate.
I believe that research has been a part of same-sex relationships receiving more tolerance and acceptance in mainstream culture, and I believe it could serve the same role for other types of relationships (although undoubtedly slower than it should). Obviously, this is a long and involved process, but I do see it starting to gain momentum, as evidenced by the number of researchers soliciting research participants here. I hope to participate in that effort. This study is only a small part of that, and, as a first study, has a limited scope, but I hope it will be a building block for future studies. Due to our location, going to the local poly community for research participation and feedback is less feasible than in other areas. Thus, I am turning to the internet, and hope that in doing so, I am not being intrusive in your community.

Thank you,
Primary Investigator: Maria Rowley, M.A. contact info: mrowley@utk.edu
Kristina Coop Gordon, Ph.D, contact info: kgordon1@utk.edu
Devin Pinkston

ThatGirlInGray 01-21-2013 03:29 AM

I took the survey, but I don't understand why you're presenting this as "couples" research. If you want your research to include people in polyamorous relationships, what about collecting data from people in triads, quads, etc.?

couplesresearch 01-21-2013 06:23 AM


Originally Posted by ThatGirlInGray (Post 179593)
I took the survey, but I don't understand why you're presenting this as "couples" research. If you want your research to include people in polyamorous relationships, what about collecting data from people in triads, quads, etc.?

That is an excellent point, and one that I've been struggling with for a while. Limiting people to responses about only one partner is straight-up exclusionary and really loses part of the picture. I imagine that many people have very different answers to these questions, depending on which partner they are talking about.
The problem I'm having is one of data analysis, which is really frustrating; having to leave people out because of math feels like a piss-poor reason. With the statisical options I have available to me for this project, entering in responses from some people about one person, and responses from other people about multiple people just won't give me accurate results. I struggled wth this for a while, in terms of whether or not I even should come to people and ask them for information about their relationships, while telling them they had to leave out some of those relationships. My advisor and I discussed this a lot, and I talked about it with some of my friends in the poly community. We finally concluded it was important enough to actually do research including poly relationships, that not doing it because we would have to start with limited methods wasn't a good reason to keep neglecting a whole community of people. Obviously, when we're talking/writing about our results, it will be very important to talk about this limitation and we will absolutely do so. In addition, I am hoping to be able to improve my methods as I continue to do more projects. I honestly don't know if I will be able to include data about multiple relationships in my second project either, but I am currently looking into ways to do so, and I could certainly specify whether or not this is possible when I present future studies. I really do want to present as accurate and fair a picture of the people in my research as possible; it's just ironic that sometimes it feels like science isn't the best way to do it.

ThatGirlInGray 01-21-2013 04:36 PM

While I certainly understand the limitations number crunching can put on a project, my first thought is: why have it only be about CURRENT relationships??

What if there was a survey done where people could identify as "non-monogamous for all relationships", "non-monogamous for most relationships", "non-monogamous for some relationships", "non-monogamous for a few relationships" and "monogamous for all relationships". Then you could include ALL people, whether currently single, in one relationship, or multiple relationships, as long as they've been in AT LEAST one relationship for 3 months or longer at some point. You'd get their thoughts on their relationships as a whole rather than one specific relationships (cause let's face it, things change, and the results you get now could be VERY different from the results you'd get in a year from the exact same people!) and it wouldn't matter if those relationships were serial monogamy or polyamory or open or whatever.

Of course, since I'm not sure of the exact point of your research, I could be talking out of my ass, but it seems to me like if you're trying to look at the personalities of those who get involved in poly versus those who don't, looking at their overall relationship style and attitude would tell you more than just their thoughts on ONE relationship.

Good Luck! :)

couplesresearch 01-21-2013 05:05 PM

Huh, that's a reeeaaally interesting way to sort out groups. I don't suppose you want to move to Tennessee and join our research lab? Mind if I take that thought, with proper credit obviously, to my next research meeting?
I think part of the issue is that couples researchers tend to look at individuals as a way of examining relationships, and therefore there's more value placed on data 'from the now', as it's seen as a better way of understanding how relationships function. However, it's not necessarily the best way to examine all the questions one might pose; I will cogitate deeply upon it!
Thank you very much for the suggestions!

ThatGirlInGray 01-21-2013 05:34 PM

Haha, no, I don't mind at all if you take that idea and try to do something with it! That's why I put it out there after all! You're welcome! :)

opalescent 01-21-2013 06:08 PM

I was frustrated by the currently in a relationship requirement. It's not like my experiences were erased upon becoming single. Designing a scientifically valid study that produces useful data is difficult - I have sympathy OP! But I would have liked an explicit disclaimer saying participate only if in current relationships and why this was necessary for the study.

couplesresearch 01-21-2013 07:16 PM


Originally Posted by opalescent (Post 179692)
I was frustrated by the currently in a relationship requirement. It's not like my experiences were erased upon becoming single. Designing a scientifically valid study that produces useful data is difficult - I have sympathy OP! But I would have liked an explicit disclaimer saying participate only if in current relationships and why this was necessary for the study.

Thank you for the feedback; I'm sorry about the frustration! If I can figure out how to edit my first post, I will rephrase our statement that we need our subjects to have been in a relationship for at least 3 months to make it clearer that it must be a current relationship, and will use the new phrasing in my recruitment from now on.
I did not even think to explain the reasoning behind the relationship requirement. I'm always hesitant to put even more stuff participation requests than I already do, in the fear that people will get bored and annoyed by the length, but I will think about how to try and integrate it into either our recruitment or the 'disqualification notification' in the study. I really want to be as transparent as possible on this process, so I'm perfectly willing to put out as much as people care to hear. (And I'll happily talk about couples research for much longer than just about anyone wants to hear.)
For anyone who's run into this issue 'pre-fix':
We've found in psychology research that asking people to recall past behaviors and feelings produces much poorer results than asking about current ones. Since some of the questionnaires we used in this study do refer to specific relationships rather than personal traits, we had to limit the study to current relationships, so, yeah, like you said, Opalescent, it's totally a design issue. If my upcoming study focuses on an ones' own traits instead of how one is in a relationship, I will be able to make it open to more people and get information on more experiences. Unfortunately, since I do couples research specifically, my studies do tend to be relationship-specific ones, in which case I do have to stick with the current-experience format to do 'good' science. Or as good as science on complicated humans can be. :rolleyes:

AnnabelMore 01-22-2013 10:48 PM

This was the comment I left at the end of the study --

The focus on only one partner was very disconcerting. I would have given VERY different answers if talking about my other partner, so what does this really capture except a randomly chosen half of my life?

Also, while I answered truthfully, I feel that you may not have gotten a useful sense of my relationship from my answers. For example, I replied that I would be upset if my partner expressed a desire for us both to have other romantic relationships. That's because she's already married to someone else, in addition to her relationship with me, and also has a one year old child, so she has no time for another romantic relationship. I wouldn't mind if she had sex with someone else, and said so in my response, as that would not be nearly so time intensive for her. However, if I saw her kissing someone I didn't know at a party, I would be a little upset, because if I don't know the person that implies she and I hadn't talked about it first, and I'd prefer she tell me before engaging intimately with someone new.

Again, I just don't know if your study is going to draw incorrect conclusions about my relationship from my answers, since none of the nuances are captured. Anyways, best of luck add thanks for your interest in the topic!

ThatGirlInGray 01-22-2013 11:07 PM

Agreed. For instance, the question about kissing someone unknown multiple times had me answering "very upset", I think, but there's room for interpretation about whether I would be upset about the kissing or about not knowing the person. For the record, if we're both at a party I would certainly expect to merit an introduction before he goes off to snog someone else!

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