View Full Version : Urban Coupling Examined in New Survey

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004, 02:39 PM
Urban Coupling Examined in New Survey

Fri Jan 9, 7:37 AM ET

By MARTHA IRVINE, AP National Writer

CHICAGO - You could call it a real-life glimpse at sex and the city. A new survey from the University of Chicago found that typical urban-dwellers spend much of their adult lives unmarried either dating or single. And that has led to an elaborate network of "markets" in which these adults search for companionship and sex.

"On average, half your life is going to be in this single and dating state, and this is a big change from the 1950s," says Edward Laumann, the project's lead author and an expert in the sociology of sexuality.

The results, released Thursday, are part of the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey to be published this spring in the book "The Sexual Organization of the City."

Laumann and his staff at the university examined how race and sexual orientation play a role in forming relationships, and how multiple sexual partners and jealousy also work into the equation.

Among other things, they found that, between the ages of 18 and 59, those surveyed cohabited an average of nearly four years and were married about 18. The rest of the time an average of about 19 years they were dating or alone, with no steady companion.

Researchers interviewed 2,114 people in the Chicago area between 1995 and 1997, as well as police officers, clergy and social workers. They also took an in-depth look at neighborhoods with predominantly black, Hispanic and gay populations.

Divorce was, of course, one of the big reasons so many people were single. But so was the fact that many young people are putting off marriage sometimes because of school, but also because many are approaching the institution of marriage more warily.

That's true for Nikhil Bagadia, a 24-year-old Chicagoan who's been dating a woman for about four months but wants to take things slowly.

"I think a lot of people jump into marriage before they should," says Bagadia, who's in pharmaceutical sales.

When looking for a partner, researchers found that people use two basic markets "transactional" and "relational." Bagadia prefers relational encounters, often facilitated by family, friends or even fellow churchgoers. He met his girlfriend through some of his college buddies.

Transactional relationships are relatively uncommitted and often meant to be short-term. They happen when two people who don't know one another meet in a bar, health club or other public place.

Laumann and his colleagues say markets also are often defined by racial group, neighborhood and sexual orientation.

In Hispanic neighborhoods, for instance, family, friends and the church played a more important role in forming partnerships among those surveyed. Young, upper-income people on the city's north side were more likely to meet their partners at school or work.

Researchers say the markets also operate differently for men and women.

Women surveyed were, for instance, less likely to meet a partner through work, church or other "embedded institutions" as they got older making it more difficult to find someone. Laumann says that may be due, in part, to the fact that men in their 40s often sought women who were at least five to eight years younger.

Meanwhile, many gay men in the survey were largely focused on transactional relationships, while lesbians were far more interested in relational connections.

Researchers also addressed the issues of multiple partners and jealousy.

Overall, 23 percent of men and 31 percent of women said they experienced jealous conflict at some point during their relationships. And researchers found that cohabitation resulted in more jealousy and physical violence than it did among married couples.

Men were more likely than women to have more than one sexual partner. Among those surveyed, 20 percent of men and 6 percent of women said they'd had sex with at least one other person during their most recent relationship.

"What's going on now is making the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s pale in comparison," says Eli Coleman, director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota. He called Laumann's work the most comprehensive since that of acclaimed researcher Alfred Kinsey, who surveyed people about sex in the 1940s.

Still, Laumann and his staff found that social services, the church and law enforcement have been slow to address this latest sexual revolution.

For instance, they found no shelters in any of the studied communities for gay domestic abuse victims.

And most churches they examined were not good at "giving guidance about how you manage a stable, but non-married relationship," Laumann says.

"It's not approved. It's not talked about," he says. "Or they just look the other way."


On the Net: http://www.src.uchicago.edu/prc/chsls.php


Martha Irvine can be reached at mirvine(at)ap.org

Tuesday, January 13th, 2004, 02:41 PM
U. of C. sex study sees love, loneliness

Fri Jan 9,11:19 AM ET

By Peter Gorner, Tribune science reporter

The typical Chicagoan is now single for about half of his or her adult life, a shift that has had a major impact on cultural institutions and the ways people interact, University of Chicago researchers reported Thursday as part of a broad look at sexuality in the city.

While people of other generations tended to marry shortly after entering the work force and remain married to the same spouse, today's marriages occur later in life and often are briefer. That trend has led to new ways of coping, such as elaborate networks in which singles search for companionship and sex.

"Chicagoans are destined to spend half their lives as single people, and half their single years will be spent alone," said sociologist Edward O. Laumann, leader of the research team. "Yet, we already know that sexual well-being is very much associated with happiness and the quality of life. The implications for the future are troubling."

The survey also found that sexual opportunities are different for men and women and are defined by racial group, neighborhood and sexual orientation. African-Americans who live on the South Side generally do not look to West Side neighborhoods for partners, for example, and people on the North Side rarely go to the South Side.

Society in general has not caught up with the changes in sexual partnering, the results indicate. For instance, gay men and gay women who are victims of domestic violence have few resources available to them.

The researchers call the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey the first representative sampling of the sex life of a major city. For the survey, 50 interviewers from the university-affiliated National Opinion Research Center conducted in-depth personal interviews with 2,114 men and women, ages 18 to 59, in the city and nearby suburbs.

The researchers also talked to 160 community representatives, including police, social workers, clergy and others.

The information was kept confidential and the team had no difficulty getting people of different cultures to respond, Laumann said.

The survey found that, on average, Chicagoans stay married for 18 years, cohabit for 3.7 years and either are unattached or dating the rest of the time.

Families, communities and local religious organizations also were found to exert enormous power in the shaping of sexual relationships.

But the change in behavioral norms brought about by early sexual maturity, cohabitation, late marriage and prevalence of divorce have consequences for city-dwellers.

"Women often have a harder time remarrying," Laumann said. "Many already have kids, and men may not want to raise other men's children."

A man in his 40s will seek a woman who is five to eight years younger, forcing older women to change their strategies for meeting partners, Laumann said.

"Even though they tend to be conservative and less permissive in their sexual attitudes, they may find themselves going to bars by themselves," Laumann said. "That's not what they were doing in their 20s."

Sexual behavior is significantly limited by such factors as neighborhood, ethnicity, sexual preference and friends, the researchers found.

In heavily Latino neighborhoods, for example, the influence of family, friends and the church remains strong. However, among young upper-income people on the North Side, the workplace and college were the most important meeting places.

The survey uncovered the importance of an emotion neglected by previous researchers: jealousy.

"The rise in cohabitation has increased domestic violence because people who cohabit are much more likely to experience jealousy," Laumann said.

"Because of the lack of commitment in a `cohab,' people enter it being a lot more mistrustful."

The researchers found that adultery breaks up Chicago area marriages at a rate of about 4 percent a year. However, when the adultery occurs among people who are living together but unmarried, the defection rate jumps to 15 to 20 percent.

"That means fighting increases, and with it the likelihood of physical violence," Laumann said. "These are fragile relationships, and domestic violence because of sexual jealousy is a problem in all the communities we studied."

For the survey, the researchers concentrated on four Chicago neighborhoods for case studies.

Included were questions about sexual partners, birth-control methods, lifetime sexual history, social networks, neighborhood characteristics, attitudes about religion, sexuality and sex roles and domestic violence.

The results of the survey will be published in a book, "The Sexual Organization of the City," to appear in spring. It represents the third part of a trilogy by the U. of C. team that began in 1994 with the national sex survey published as "The Social Organization of Sexuality."

That was followed by "Sex, Love and Health in America: Private Choices and Public Policies," published in 2001.

Other researchers welcomed the new survey, which was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Ford Foundation.

"Just as in his previous work, Dr. Laumann is the new Kinsey," said Eli Coleman, director of the human sexuality program at the University of Minnesota, referring to the late Alfred C. Kinsey, the prominent sex researcher.

"Laumann provides us with the data to really understand the sexual behavior of people today. This is extremely important as we face the myriad sexual health problems in America," Coleman said.

Daniel Greenberg, a sociologist and sex researcher at New York University, has specialized in studying homosexuals.

"Laumann includes them in his research but also includes everybody else," he said. "The study of sex in a big city has not been done before. It's a major advance."