American Sociological Association

Can Spouses Buffer the Impact of Discrimination on Depressive Symptoms? An Examination of Same-sex and Different-sex Marriages

Discrimination due to personal characteristics (e.g., gender, sexuality, appearance) is a common yet stressful experience that is detrimental to mental health. Prior work has not considered how spouses in same- and different-sex marriages help each other cope with discrimination despite the importance of marriage for managing stress and adversity. We analyze survey data collected from both spouses in same-sex and different-sex marriages within the United States (N = 836 individuals) to examine whether support from spouses weakens the impact of discrimination on depressive symptoms. Results suggest that discrimination contributes to depressive symptoms, but greater support from spouses buffers the mental health consequences of discrimination. Individuals in same-sex marriages report more spousal support than individuals in different-sex marriages, even after accounting for experiences of discrimination. Same-sex couples may get needed spousal support, whereas women married to men receive the least spousal support and may be vulnerable to stressors that challenge mental health.


Rachel Donnelly, Brandon A. Robinson, and Debra Umberson





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